22 November 2011

Deep gloom

It can't have escaped your notice that the Spanish economy is in a right mess.  Unemployment is 21% and rising, and under-25s have barely a 50-50 chance of getting a job.  The interest rate on government bonds is approaching Italy's, making us the S in PIIGS.  Some cities are so deep in debt they can't pay their staff. Government spending cuts are biting deeply into health and education services, and public employees have had their salaries cut.  Families who took out mortgages during the boom years and have now lost their jobs are being evicted at the rate of 15,000 a month, while up to two million dwellings stand empty.  Small businesses are going to the wall on a daily basis, especially those dependent on public contracts.

In last Sunday's general election, the voters demonstrated unequivocally who they blame for this sorry state of affairs. The PSOE (Partido Socialista de Obreros Españoles), which has been power since 2004 under the leadership of Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, saw its share of the vote fall from 44% to 29%, its lowest ever since democracy was restored after the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1976. The right-wing PP (Partido Popular) "swept to victory" with a large majority and an even larger avalanche of clichés.  The political map of Spain is now almost totally blue, apart from red blobs in Seville and Barcelona and a few separatist enclaves in Catalunya and the Basque Country.  

The campaign slogans for the two main parties were a sick joke.  "Pelea por lo que quieres!" (Fight for what you want!) declared the avuncular Alfredo Rubalcaba on the PSOE posters.  How meekly his party rolled over on its back when confronted with the bared teeth of Angela Merkel and the IMF, signing the Euro Pact and committing the country to austerity measures and privatisation!  How they wrung their hands with remorse while cutting 5% off teachers' wages, while dithering endlessly over whether or not to raise taxes for the wealthy!  No, sorry Alfredo, we aren't buying that one.

And the PP's "Súmate al cambio!" (Take part in the change!) was even more of a hoot. Change there will most certainly be, but what it will consist of we can only guess. Their slightly disturbed-looking leader, Mariano Rajoy, must be unique in contemporary Western politics for having won a landslide victory without declaring a single detailed policy in advance, other than the vague threat of more austerity measures and the even vaguer promise of more private sector jobs.  "There are difficult times to come", he said in his victory speech.  To come?  You mean they haven't arrived yet???

Spain's new leader, Mariano Rajoy, on realising
what he's let himself in for
Meanwhile back in Alcalá de los Gazules we lefties have a tiny glimmer of consolation.  The municipal elections last May left us with an unholy alliance of the IU and the PP, an absentee mayor and a deafening silence from the Town Hall ever since (other than the occasional squeak about the mess left by their predecessors).  The electorate turned out in the pouring rain on Sunday to restore the red flag over the cuña de socialismo andaluz - making Alcalá one of just a handful of towns in Spain where the PSOE returned a majority.  Overall this makes not a jot of difference, of course, but it made me feel a bit better.

Voting figures for Alcalá de los Gazules

1 comment:

cedar said...

sad but true; red or blue won't save her. The situation is not really visible to the outside visitor, plenty of new cars, and I am amazed how many people have multiple houses.

BTW who are you?