••• The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent
Governing By Decree
Whilst the rest of the world seems to be turning on its head with all sorts of bad news this country’s new Socialist (PSOE) government and their extreme left (Podemos - ‘Yes we can’.) partners continues to juggle with the beasts that are jumping out of a political Pandora’s Box. Trouble is that the President, Sr. Pedro Sanchez, because of a minority government has to revert to the only possible means to try to steer the ship. Hence the title of this month’s essay.
Article 86 of the Spanish Constitution states that in cases of national emergencies the government can introduce a law without the approval through parliamentary voting. It doesn’t mean that they can carry out changes to the basic laws of government such as citizens’ rights, state institutions or the electoral system to give examples. We must recall that the present government is represented by only 84 MPs out of a total of 350 made up of all sorts of parties (see later heading ‘National Front) and is in power thanks to a vote of ‘no confidence’ that ousted the conservatives (PP) lead by President Mariano Rajoy. Therefore, Sr. Sanchez, apart from his continued honeymoon voyages around the world, his latest to Cuba, has been signing umpteen number of cheques that continue, literally, to turn the country on its head. As stated earlier: ‘by decree’.
So, what tricks has he been up to since the last report. Plenty!
The government has presented a draft budget to the European Union that has literally been rejected by Brussels with ‘warnings’ by the IMF and the OECD. They do not see how the figures match that would meet those required to satisfy the deficit and economic growth. In simple terms, income and expenditure figures don’t jive. The budget was originally agreed with the pact signed between the Prime Minister, Sr. Pedro Sanchez and Sr. Pablo Iglesias. Meanwhile, the government has been trying to obtain backing from the rest of the other members of parliament that supported it in the vote of ‘no confidence’. The holdup feeds fuel to the fire as much needed funds for internal investments are on hold.
The subject of this autonomous region seeking independence from Spain is still the greatest problem facing the government especially as it gives in to more and more demands that continue to defy the basic Constitution of the country. The previous government of the Generalitat (Catalan autonomous regional government) is demanding the release of the so called ‘political prisoners’ that are accused of ‘rebellion’ which include members of the different Catalan parties involved. The judges that are dealing with the case are now under fire that may lead to an upheaval of the whole judicial system in Spain. This particular issue is yet another of the threats to the integritiy of the country as they try to determine whether or not the Catalan government has literally caused a ‘Coup D’état’ by recently going one step further and declaring UDI (unilateral declaration of independence). Remember the case of Southern Rhodesia under Ian Smith back in November of 1965? This leads on to the following.
Resurgence of the National Front
Despite the plethora of world issues that have taken place since the beginning of the XXI Century, two important ones have occurred during the 40 years of Spanish democracy that have changed the course of Spain’s future. The first was the law passed in 2007 by the then Socialist (PSOE) government under Sr. Rodriguez Zapatero known as the ‘Historic Memory Law’ that condemned the Generalissimo Franco era including the horrors of the Civil War (1936-1939) and the second was the ‘sit-in’ in Madrid’s main square ‘The Puerta del Sol’ in May of 2011 lead by thousands of dissatisfied citizens with the general social situation in Spain at the time. Remember that the conservatives (PP) under Sr. Mariano Rajoy were in power with an overall majority trying to recover the economic downturn without reverting to intervention as had occurred in Ireland and Portugal. This event led to massive political movements emerging through the social medias (Facebook and Co). In 2014 it all came together with an incumbent new political party and charismatic leader.
Enter Sr. Pablo Iglesias, founder of the Podemos (‘We Can’) party. Sr. Iglesias has been described many times in these reports. Just to add that his party has majestically taken over during these years large sectors of the nation that they now control including the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona not to re-mention the government. This is a brief introduction to today’s present situation and a build up to a possible return to the ‘mood’ fostered during the II Republic back in the mid 30’s. Hence the resurgence of the National Front, a coalition of anti-monarchist parties from different regions of Spain threatening social disruption no different to the year of 1934. Slowly but surely certain ‘moves’ are taking place that enact the previous Spanish Constitution of 1931 such as fundamental changes in the relationship with the Catholic Church intrinsically tied in with the education system, especially the private, of the country. Removal of financial support of private schools, all the signs of Christian symbols - mainly the ‘Cross’ - and introduction of national property tax of which the church is presently exempt. We’re talking about churches and cathedrals.
All this is built into the Podemos party’s program of government that is the essence of the deal that was struck with the present Socialist government. On the other side of the fence you have the conservative party (PP) lead by a new young and energetic leader, Sr. Pablo Casados, the ‘every-which-way’ party under the helm of Albert Rivera and a new right wing party VOX with its leader Abascal. Albert Rivera has recently accused Sr. Pedro Sanchez of heading a ‘Frankenstein’ government.
Dear reader, it sounds confusing but the stage is set right back to 1934, and, hate to say it, that led to the start of the Civil War of 1936. The assumption could be confirmed next month when regional elections are due to be held in Andalusia. The socialists (PSOE), presently governed by charismatic Sra. Susana Diaz has been in power ever since the end of the dictatorship. Should the number of votes be insufficient to govern, what party will she turn to as a partner? The is the 64-thousand-dollar question. It all adds fuel to the political fire building up in Spain.
* The far-right party, Vox, gained parliamentary representation (12 seats) in a regional parliament in Spain for the first time since the country's return to democracy.
Now on to the ‘topic of the day’.
European and a great deal of international media have been constantly reporting on the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Finally, this month the British Prime Minister Mrs. Theresa May has managed to secure and sign a deal that would allow Britain and the Union to proceed with further negotiations to finalize the ‘closure of the gates’ of a 40-year relationship. However, the deal still has to be ratified by the British Parliament or ‘sold’ to the British public. The end result is far from clear. In fact, this is the end of the beginning. So where does Spain fit into the jigsaw puzzle? This is all still up in the air Dec 12th.
Well, the same old never ending jingoism of the Spanish claim that Gibraltar belongs to Spain, the Spanish Prime Minister, Sr. Pedro Sanchez tried to veto the deal, but after a few talks to ‘somebody’ agreed to sign the Brexit deal with the rest of the 26 European member states of the Union but not without announcing that Spain had finally achieved its goal of ‘shared sovereignty’ of the Rock. In ‘two seconds flat’ Mrs. Theresa May refuted the statement by saying that ‘Gibraltar is British and will always remain as such’. End of story.
To end with the beginning, a great deal of other problems has arisen that in essence relate to the above major topics. It’s like looking at a beautiful jelly fish floating on the surface just off the shore without realizing that beneath the surface it hides several feet of poisonous tentacles ready to sting if molested.
© James Skinner Dec 2018
Curriculums - Spain in Turmoil
What is now emerging are refreshed nationalistic movements by other regions that are beginning to feel the ‘urge’ to review their own relationship with Spain