Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Opening a Spanish door to egalitarian and federalist reforms

In the Spanish general election of December 20th, all predictions agree that prime minister Mariano Rajoy will lose his current overall majority in Parliament. This will open the door to coalition agreements. The exact outcome of the election is uncertain, and therefore it is very hard to forecast exactly what kind of alliances can be formed after the vote to choose a new government. The vote takes place after four controversial years of Mr. Rajoy in office. In these years, the Spanish banking system had to be bailed out, and corruption scandals tarnished the reputation of the party in office and the prime minister himself. The banking bailout and the corruption scandals were interconnected because one of the symbols of corruption, former IMF leader and Spanish vice-prime minister Rodrigo Rato, was himself the chairman of the largest bank that had to be bailed out (Bankia). This bailout has its origins in the economic and financial crisis that exploded when the housing bubble burst after 2008. The subsequent troubles were part of the euro and debt crisis that engulfed the European periphery and does not have only one source of causality or responsibility. But the current government has not used his four years in office to convince voters that it had a project of shared prosperity or a real will to reform democracy in realistic ways and fight corruption. In the meantime, the government has been completely unable to solve or alleviate the constitutional crisis with Catalonia, one of Spain's most prosperous regions. Quite the opposite: Mr. Rajoy has been trying to exploit this crisis to fight the election along a nationalist cleavage, instead of making federalist proposals that could be accepted by most of the Catalan and Spanish people at the same time. The institutional crisis produced by the combination of economic recession, corruption scandals and a sovereignty challenge, has been used by "emergent" populist parties like Podemos and Ciudadanos to challenge the mainstream political forces. At the same time, the Socialist Party, under a new leader, Pedro Sánchez, presents a new face with a serious program, containing proposals to address federal reform, as well as egalitarian policies in a serious fiscal framework. It is around these proposals that the alternative should be structured.

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