Are you concerned about the impact of the Greek elections on Spain – a country that now has its own radical and dynamic new political party (´Podemos’)?
Well, it would be understandable. Syritza in Greece have had a stunning success and humiliated the long established political parties of Greece and now promise a radical change in Greek politics and governance. The question is whether Podemos can achieve the same electoral success in Spain and whether it would be a good or bad thing for the country.
Certainly, there seem to be parallels between Spain and Greece with regard to the contempt for their principal political parties that are obvious amongst the respective populations. In the case of Spain, two parties have effectively held power since the demise of the Franco regime in 1975 – the Popular Party (somewhat similar to the Conservatives in the UK) and the PSOE (a continental version of the UK Labour party).
The main Spanish political parties have seen their popularity plummet because of the dreadful consequences of the economic crisis here. This was, to some extent, caused by the PSOE party’s gross mismanagement of the Spanish economy whilst in power during the boom and the initial stages of the crisis – and by the inadequacies of the PP party, who have been in power for the past 3+ years. The latter, of course inherited a poisoned chalice with regard to Spanish debt but they have hugely damaged their own ‘popularity’. Indeed, the harshness of the PP government’s austerity measures have been accompanied by some staggeringly odious, inept (and deeply unpopular) legislation restricting human rights.
Meanwhile, hardly a week goes by without yet another devastating revelation of corruption concerning either the PP or the PSOE, whether nationally or locally. The justifiable perception amongst the Spanish about both parties is that they are self-serving, endemically corrupt and quite incapable of providing good governance. This covers the actions of the political parties right through to their administrations of the local Town Halls, the Autonomous Regions and the national government itself.
In short, the Spanish are utterly fed up with their political parties and the seemingly endless economic crisis and the perfidious nature of political corruption. So they want a change. To them, the system is clearly not working and, like the Stygian stables, needs a thorough and complete cleaning out. Thus the astonishing popularity of Podemos, a party that has been in existence for less than two years.
Of course, the impact of the Greek elections on Spain are profound – they have shown that a brand new party can have electoral success. This has given a terrific boost to Podemos and has shaken the traditional Spanish political parties (the PP and PSOE) to the very core. Indeed, I suspect that the PP and PSOE must be looking carefully at Greece now and hoping that before the local and national elections in Spain this year that Syritza will somehow lose all credibility and prove to be utterly incompetent and unable to deliver on their promises. This may turn out to be the case – however it is probably one of the only hopes for electoral success that both the PP and PSOE have.
Needless to say, the macroeconomic news for Spain is good with reports coming out that Spain is making an economic recovery. However, I think this needs to be put into perspective. Spanish government statistics are often dubious and any ‘good’ governmental news during an election year needs to be treated with the greatest caution. Certainly, on an anecdotal basis, I see no real signs of recovery in my own area of Spain (the Valencia region). Unemployment remains appallingly high, young people have little or no hope of finding meaningful work, money is very hard to borrow, salaries remain pitifully low and Spanish housing prices are at rock bottom. I may be missing the bigger picture – but I doubt it.
So – what are the chances of Podemos having a similar electoral success to that of Syritza in Greece?
At the time of writing, I would suggest that the chances are good. Hardly anyone who I meet, even long term supporters of the traditional parties, wants to vote the way they did in the past. To some extent this is what is most shocking – a universal dislike of the PP and PSOE and, along with it, a genuine perplexity about who to vote for, come the day of an election.
Of course, many people are troubled by Podemos and their hard left philosophy, their unproven ability to govern and the reality of putting into action their promises. But who else is there to vote for? That is a question that confounds most people and will probably allow, even just by default, Podemos to have electoral success or, at least enough success to become a major power broker in Spain.
One thing is for sure, Spanish politics is likely to be stirred up this year in a way that it has not been since the death of General Franco in 1975. Indeed, for good or bad, the impact of the Greek elections on Spain may reverberate throughout Europe if Podemos have the same success as Syritza. This may herald a radical change to politics in Europe – although whether it will be for the better, only time will tell….