After the last local and regional elections it seems obvious that a new political era is starting in Spain. After almost 30 years since its annexation to the EU, Spain is beginning to achieve real progress towards a genuine integration within the European community and provide itself with the tools to compete on an equal footing. Once and (hopefully) for all, the country is moving away from the totalitarian-democratic model in which it was plunged in recent years, and approaches a multi-party, consensual modern democracy, where dialogue – instead of deaf despotic monologues, finds its place at the centre of Spanish political life.
Crystallization of the social turmoil of 2011
There cannot be real political change without sound social change. In Spain it began to take shape some time ago. European investment from the 90’s ran out and the housing bubble burst, taking with it, Spanish working class numbness. Citizenship itself was re-organised based on quality democratic values owned by true democratic, prosperous and cosmopolitan societies, creating new formations best suited to the reality of the many different Spain’s which exist.
This crystallized phenomenon has generated a balanced political landscape. On the one hand, the loss of nearly three million votes from the Popular Party, the failure to recover what was lost by the PSOE, as well as the results of the inclusive political platforms which have spearheaded these social movements in 2011 (Manuela Carmena in Madrid, Ada Colau in Barcelona, Valencia or Compromis) – prove that citizens are taking over public discourse after witnessing the failure of their citizenship. Ciudadanos – a traditional brand for disappointed timorous that, despite coming under the umbrella of the new policy, is made out of former militants of other centre-right parties, and survives out of the ambiguity of their proposals, and the suspicion that the new way of politics they may be producing.
As in the EU, this balance generates a process based on the need for negotiation that would produce more effective decision-making, dependent on political consensus instead, as so far, ideological whims. Amongst other benefits, it will allow best practices between municipalities to be shared without the obsolete bipartisan straitjacket. In addition, the outcome will potentially allow the Spanish public administrations to regain effective mechanisms to fulfill the mandate that citizens gave them at the polls. Of course, this mandate includes improving the overall economic situation, not only in terms of mere macro-economic indexes, but also at household level, reducing poverty and approaching the socio-economic level of neighbours like the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. As the EU motto states: “United in diversity”.
Please, do not make the same mistakes.
Regardless how many people insist in saying the contrary, in the Europe of the 21st century, absolute majorities are the result of structural deficiencies in the political system. The current local election result can reinforce the separation of powers in Spain, standardizing decision-making processes and replace the systematic decree-based policy making. Some people may even see the beginning of a federalist model. In any case, as in the European Union, this result opens the door to a model of multi-level government, making Spain converge with democratic countries of undoubted reputation and – not coincidentally – the best economic performers. However, as in the EU, this new multi-party system is not a panacea by itself. Without a real willingness to compromise, any party could deliberately destabilize or delay making decisions, or as in the case of Belgium, generate situations of prolonged ungovernability. Hopefully, new mayors and their teams will be at the forefront of this great opportunity to demonstrate that a public system can be built from the bottom-up. This could collect the different realities of a society and return strength to public, standing – bringing balance to the force against the power of large corporations and their minions.
The storm that comes.
At regional and local level it is already done. Many of the Spaniards who voted have decided to bet on their future, for dialogue, for their own kind. However, they are also getting ready for December, stocking up supplies for the hurricane to come – the mother of all general elections. Lifetime politicians will not easily give way and they are already preparing themselves to defend tooth and nail their most prized possession – control of Spanish economic policy. They will attack and they will aim at the already battered heart of the Spanish society. Surely a millionaire or a company will threaten to leave Spain, argue that they are the only ones who can keep this up and say that without them Spain will fall apart into pieces. I just hope that are right and that their Spain of shoe-shiners, bullfighting, sandrías and the open bar (the one they have set up in the country) falls apart to make way for a Spain that wants to shine itself, being at an equal level across Europe, demanding respect, justice and a decent future.