(For discussion on the United Left results see also https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/the-disunited-and-fading-spanish-left-handing-on-the-baton/ and for discussion on results in the southern Basque Country https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/internal-dissension-over-prisoners-coincides-with-further-decline-in-the-abertzale-lefts-vote/)
The Spanish state’s General Election was held on 20th December, four years and one month since the previous one; although in some countries not such a long period, it was the longest between elections in the state since Franco’s dictatorship. A number of financial scandals affecting the ruling right-wing Partido Popular (PP) in recent years no doubt made their leaders reluctant to go to the polls but holding off longer might have resulted in even worse results.
On the other hand, their main parliamentary opposition, the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero Espaňol (PSOE) were also embroiled in some financial scandals during the same period, though not as many. (Please see summary of the main financial scandals in appendix).
Both political parties had something to fear in the growth of the new political party Podemos (“We Can”) but the PSOE much more than the PP, since the image projected by Podemos is generally one of the Left. As expected, Podemos took votes from the PSOE but unexpectedly came in as the third parliamentary party in strength overall.
The PP’s vote was under strong threat from the new right-wing party Ciudadanos (Citizens), which pre-elections polls predicted moving into third place in number of seats but instead came in a fourth and well below Podemos. Nevertheless, it did take votes from the PP.
On a state-wide turnout of over 70% of the electorate, the election resulted in the most politically-fragmented parliament since 1936. Although the PP remains the party with the highest vote overall and therefore the most seats, it gained only 123 out of 350, which does not allow it to form a government. Even a coalition with Ciudadanos would give the PP insufficient seats to form a majority unless they could rely on abstention by the PSOE not voting against them, a tactic which would leave the PSOE vulnerable to further gains from Podemos or others in future. A PP-PSOE coalition does not seem possible, both parties having much to lose from such a coalition in the future, not to mention the state itself, which functions under an illusion of political choice between “left” and “right”.
On the other hand, the number of seats held by PSOE (at 90, the lowest ever in its history) is even less than those of the PP and it would need to go into coalition with others in order to form an alternative government. With Podemos? Possibly … but the numbers would still be insufficient and would require others to come on board. It could function, of course, with the PP abstaining from voting against them but that in turn would probably cause further defections from the PP to Ciudadanos or a split. A PSOE-Podemos alliance would also harm the new Podemos party in the future, as it has based much of its propaganda to date on attacking “political bipartisanship” in the running of the state by the “oligarchy”. And on the 29th the party chief, Iglesias, ruled out a coalition with either of the main parties.
United Left also suffers
The Izquierda Unida bloc was also devastated, presumably by Podemos, losing six seats on previous showing and remaining with two. (For the trajectory and electoral performance of the “United Left” — Izquierda Unida – please see separate article).
Background of the Spanish state
The present form of the Spanish state emerged from a fascist dictatorship, in turn the victor of a vicious civil war. The dictatorship of 36 years came to an end without a revolution or bringing to trial of state torturers, mass murderers and robbers. The new form of the state developed a constitution insisting on the unity of the state with the explicit threat of army violence against any nation within its borders seeking independence.
It was as though a coach with fascist emblems and full of fascists went into a paint-spraying garage, coming out a few minutes later a different colour but with all the original passengers on board. Of course, a few new passengers got in too, like the previously repressed PSOE and the CPE (Partido Comunista de Espaňa). And they also helped with the painting.
Alone among the state’s population, the majority in three of the Basque provinces voted against the 1978 Constitution (many also abstained). The more democratic articles of the Constitution never found expression in practice, especially with regard to democracy and civil rights in the Basque and Catalan countries. In the 1980s the social-democratic PSOE government was embroiled in the scandal of the GAL assassination squads operating against the Abertzale Left movement in the Basque Country, resulting in the jailing of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Spanish state, the most senior Police Chief and a number of highly-placed officials.
The Spanish state includes within its borders as already noted most of the Basque Country and the Catalan Countries, which have their own cultures and languages. Also with a significantly different culture are Asturias and Galicia, both of them considering themselves Celtic rather than Latin-Hispanic and and having their own languages. There are in fact small movements seeking independence or greater autonomy in all other regions of the state, including in the political centre itself, Castille.
The Spanish state has long been the most unstable in the core European Union. Collusion between fascists, alleged social democrats and alleged communists internally, along with the support of the USA and the tolerance of its European partners has kept it afloat. Nevertheless, it represents the part of the EU most vulnerable to revolution, with immediate impact should that happen on the French and Portuguese states and further ripples throughout the EU. However the revolutionary and potentially revolutionary forces are currently weak, divided and riddled with opportunism.
Some major recent corruption scandals
The political landscape of Spain was shaken in early 2013 by the “Bárcenas affair”. On 18 January 2013, Spanish daily El Mundo revealed that former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas had, up until 2009, used a slush fund to pay out monthly amounts, ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 euros, to leading members of the party. On 31 January 2013, Spanish daily El País published what became known as “the Bárcenas’ papers”, facsimile excerpts from handwritten ledgers in Bárcenas’ hand. Among the recipients were incumbent party leader and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Secretary-General María Dolores de Cospedal.
The PP took the position that these payments were in accordance with law. Further, on 14 July 2013, El Mundo published excerpts from several SMS between Bárcenas and Rajoy from 2011 through 2013 in which Rajoy promised help to Bárcenas and gave him encouragement. The most recent of these messages was in March 2013, when publicity on the Bárcenas affair had already broken out. Under pressure from international media and opposition parties threatening him with a motion of censure, Rajoy spoke out to Congress in an extraordinary plenary session on 1 August.
Rajoy denied any criminal responsibility, which he attributed solely to Bárcenas, but recognized “errors” and “having trusted the wrong person”. This did not prevent the opposition bloc from demanding Rajoy’s resignation, but with the PP commanding an absolute majority in Parliament and with no judicial proof on Rajoy’s direct involvement in the scandal, chances for a successful motion of censure were slim.
At the same time, a corruption scandal affecting the Duke of Palma Iñaki Urdangarín, “the Nóos case”, resulted in the charging of his spouse Cristina de Borbón, Infanta of Spain and daughter of King Juan Carlos I, for tax fraud and money laundering in April 2013. She was summoned to court in February 2014, and in November 2014, the High Court of Palma de Mallorca upheld charges against her, paving the way for her to face trial, though only on tax fraud charges.
In June 2015, King Felipe VI officially deprived his sister of her dukedom, privately announcing his intention beforehand. These corruption allegations severely eroded the Spanish Royal Family’s popularity within Spain; according to an opinion poll by the CIS, between 1995 and 2013 the Spanish monarchy’s approval rating had dropped from 7.5 to 3.68 on a scale of 10 amongst Spaniards.
In late 2014, the sudden emergence of several episodes of corruption that had taken place over the course of the past years and decades was compared to the Italian Tangentopoli episode in the 1990s. As a result, this episode has been dubbed by some media as ‘the Spanish Tangentopoli’ or ‘Black October’.
Starting on July 2014, former Catalonia President Jordi Pujol had come under investigation after he acknowledged possessing a large, undeclared, familiar fortune, with several of his sons being already under investigation on alleged tax offense charges. By October 2014, most of his family had already come under investigation under alleged money laundering, fraud, public contract kickbacks and other tax offenses.
In early October a massive expenses scandal was unconvered involving former Caja Madrid senior executives and advisers. At least 86 bankers, politicians, officers and trade union leaders were accused of using undeclared “black” credit cards between 2003 and 2012, spending over 15 million euros in private expenditures. Involved was former Caja Madrid chairman between 1996 and 2009, Miguel Blesa, but also notable members from the PP, PSOE and IU parties, such as former Deputy PM, IMF Managing Director and Caja Madrid/Bankia chairman Rodrigo Rato, as well as members from Spain’s main trade unions UGT and CCOO.
In late October, Judge Pablo Ruz charged former PP Secretary-General and several-times Minister during José María Aznar’s tenure, Ángel Acebes, with a possible misappropriation of public funds as a result of the Barcenas affair. A few days later, Ruz’ inquiry on a Treasury investigation unveiled that the People’s Party could have spent as much as 1.7 million euros of undeclared money on works of its national headquarters in Madrid between 2006 and 2008. On 27 October, a large anti-corruption operation, Operation Punica, resulted in 51 people arrested because of their involvement in a major scandal of public work contract kickbacks, amounting at least 250 million euros. Among those arrested were notable municipal and regional figures from both PSOE and PP, as well as a large number of politicians, councilors, officials and businessmen in the Madrid community, Murcia, Castile and León and Valencia.
On 26 November, Judge Ruz summoned Health Minister Ana Mato to court after concluding she could have benefited from several corruption crimes allegedly committed by her former husband Jesús Sepúlveda, charged in the Gürtel case. As a result, Ana Mato resigned from her office that same day, defending that she had not been charged with any penal crime, but declaring that she did not want to bring further harm to her party. A Congress plenary in which Rajoy was to announce legal reforms against corruption had been scheduled for 27 November several weeks previously; the media concluded that Rajoy had forced Mato’s resignation in order to prevent a complicated political situation on that day.