Spain: Divided ruling class faces impasse

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Spain held its second general election in less than 12 months at the end of June. Although the conservative People’s Party (PP) received the most votes, it did not win enough to form a government, even after signing a deal with the new right-wing party Ciudadanos. Mariano Rajoy lost two attempts to be voted in as prime minister by parliament for a second term. Progressive forces urged the social-democratic PSOE to stand an alternative candidate, but its leaders refused to do so, fearing the radicalisation of their own fragile coalition. The two-party system has been undermined but the outcome is an impasse, which may lead to a third election on 18 December. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.

On 25 September, regional elections were held in Galicia and the Basque country, with very different results. The PP had a landslide victory in Galicia, despite the media publishing pictures of its candidate hobnobbing with a notorious drug dealer. In the Basque Country, the bourgeois Basque Nationalist Party obtained 37.65% of the vote and is gathering support to establish a majority in the regional Parliament. The party with the second-most votes was EH Bildu, Basque left-wing nationalists whose candidate had been released after four years in prison and officially banned by the Electoral Court. EH Bildu challenged the terms of his release – which had tried to make him ineligible to stand for office – and he now becomes leader of the regional opposition with 21.23% of the vote, followed by Podemos with 14.83%.

Social-democratic arm-wrestling

For months the social democrats of the PSOE have been caught in a contradiction. It had a choice between allowing the conservatives to remain in office by abstaining in the parliamentary vote, or building an alternative with progressive forces. The latter would involve agreeing a joint programme with Unidos Podemos and left-wing nationalists. For the old cadre, soaked in privilege, this seemed an undesirable option. On 28 September former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez and PSOE regional leaders therefore manoeuvred to submit the collective resignation of a majority of the party’s Executive Committee, so as to force the replacement of the General Secretary, Pedro Sanchez, whose reluctance to allow the conservatives to form a government was seen as a block on this faction’s political ambitions. If the new PSOE leadership abstains in the parliamentary vote, it will pave the road for Rajoy to become once again head of government – disappointing a large swathe of PSOE voters. This could be a debacle and is yet to be seen whether PSOE can recover from its crisis and the worst election results in recent history.

Corruption on the rise

Rampant corruption seems an indelible characteristic of Spain’s decaying capitalism. In September, questions and oral statements were taken at the start of the trial against 65 bank executives, entrepreneurs and politicians working for Bankia accused of using ‘black’ credit cards which gave them access to unlimited perks hidden from the tax office. Some €15.5m were spent in jewellery, hotels, spas, trips, clothes and alcohol between 2012 and 2013; in the same period, Bankia was being bailed out by the state to the tune of billions of euros.

Meanwhile the anti-corruption organisation, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), says it was offered €2m by former king Juan Carlos to drop the embezzlement charges it has brought against his daughter. The PP, meanwhile, has been found legally accountable for the destruction of its former treasurer’s computers and hard disks, in an attempt to clear evidence of fraud and illegal funding. As reported in June (www.revolutionarycommunist.org/europe/spain/4371-sn080616), all conservative councillors in the city of Valencia have been removed after being accused of corruption. Only the mayor escaped by being appointed a member of the Senate, although she is being investigated and faces massive media pressure.

These cases are a reminder of the corruption inherent within the political class – although, given the avalanche of cases, people are almost getting inured to it. Meanwhile, unreported by the media, there is a rise in homophobic and hate-related attacks, expressions of the increase in fascism and racism. A black journalist who is president of SOS Racism has received several death threats including racist insults and photos of armed men and bullets; one picture was of a black man shot dead, with the message ‘You’re next’. Media reports ignore the continuous eviction of families from their homes. They do not report job insecurity and precarious living conditions. Everything is overshadowed by the political and electoral loop. Either with PSOE’s passive support or by means of new elections, the right-wing PP is likely to lead another four-year government, which has already promised compliance with demands for austerity from the EU and the troika. Opposition has to reach beyond Parliament and other institutions and continue to be built from communities.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 253 October/November 2016