By Juan Torres López*
The results of the Andalusian elections on Sunday 22 March have some features and trends that seem significant and perhaps decisive not only on what happens in Andalusia, but throughout Spain in the future.
First, they confirm what has always seemed essential to understand what is happening in Spain’s most populous region. Andalusia is a land of mixtures and mysteries, chiaroscuro, light and shadow, of paradoxes, of certainties and contradictions. It is not black and white. Once again those who bet all on this election, focussed on the good or bad, the first and the last, the totally positive or negative, were disappointed.
Surprise was assured among those who only perceive evils and defects in Andalusia and who see the Socialists (PSOE) as solely responsible for all of them.
The elections confirmed that PSOE remains more widely appreciated in Andalusia than many believe. For all its faults, despite the scandals arising from its management of the region in recent years, it remains a fact that a large part of the Andalusian population recognize the significance that it was PSOE that created the welfare state and have defended it while the right has dismantled it elsewhere.
I have often criticized many of the things done by the Andalusia’s PSOE governments and I not think I can be suspected of having overlooked the responsibility of their leaders in the corruption. I have never been silent. But I’ve always considered it a very unfair mistake to identify everything that the Andalusian PSOE has done with corruption, unemployment and social unrest. This party is responsible for much of the advances enjoyed by the vast bulk of the Andalusian population (particularly compared to 30 or 40 years ago and the days of Franco).
So I think those who presented themselves in Andalusia in his election as a project against the PSOE were wrong. As I also think they are wrong – and will continue to make errors in the future – those who to the identify PSOE equating PSOE to a right-wing party, no different than the ruling Popular Party (PP). Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero laughed at me when I wrote that I think it was a mistake to say the entire Andalusian PSOE was just part of the ruling elite, or ‘casta’ as the Spanish rebel party likes to say. I still think this and I do not know if he will still laugh at me for it.
In any case, the PSOE only has the vote of one in five. These are the facts, however jubilant and confident Susana Díaz, the Andalusian PSOE’s new leader, feels. It is her hands not to make the mistake of thinking that is enough to take Andalusia forward. Just as say that you cannot understand the Andalusian by looking for the black and white, I think it would be a tragedy to now rule in monochrome.
Finally, it remains to be seen whether in a general election PSOE would obtain this result and, especially, whether it will be able to have sufficient reach across Spain. Such a result, especially in certain regions, would appear to be very difficult to achieve.
Popular Party – major setback
It is the PP that has suffered the major political setback, possibly, because of disaffection with its handling of the crisis, for his lies and failures, for the treatment by his government of Andalusia. And, of course, thanks to the rise of the new Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, as an alternative taking advantage of this disaffection. But you cannot ignore the PP still is still strong in some large cities, especially in eastern Andalusia. It will not disappear from the map.
The election confirmed that Podemos is a rising force but much depends on how it manages its own project. Its most loyal voters are disappointed, however much you want to hide it. Its not an adequate excuse that the elections were held early: whoever intends to govern a country like Spain must always be prepared for that, and more, plus it didn’t take a genius to imagine that the election in the region might have been brought forward.
To me it seems that more likely that Podemos did not want to take part in this contest. Thinking it would not win, it seems that it wanted to avoid a better result than compromise too much with agreements and deals in that inevitable event. The risk is that it is not easy to win a general election (or even have a good result in it) without having well over 15% of the vote in Andalusia, with a population of around 8.5 million. Also, I think it’s significant that Podemos failed to overtake the initial opinion polls. And not be easy to overcome them if it does not open up more instead of closing in on itself, in the most left-wing sections of the party. It will not be enough to fill a velodrome and so far I do not think you can say it has succeeded in making the cross-cutting political project, defended by its leaders, credible. Time conspires against this, because in politics one must seize opportunities as they arise.
Ciudadanos has been confirmed as filling an important gap in the Spanish political landscape in Andalucía, and it has produced on the right the same type of earthquake as Podemos on the left. But it is a mistake to believe that their vote is simply right-wing. If in the next few months it spreads and make its cross-cutting discourse credible, it will establish itself as a clear protagonist on the political map and could do as much damage to the PP as Podemos has done on the left. It could also occur something similar to the party of Pablo Iglesias, but on the other side of the political spectrum: it could let itself go to the extreme right, and it is already edging in that direction.
As in the case of Podemos, the challenge is to consolidate a cross-cutting discourse and, above all, make it believable.
If the two parties were able to really break the patronage and corruption of the dominant dynamics of bipartisanship, it could open a new, cleaner era in our polluted political life, and boost democracy in Spain. This would be desirable.
Izquierda Unida has not risen to the challenge it faces. It did not understand what was happening in Spain and has been late for everything. And above all to self-criticism. When it stops talking only to its own and understands that there are transforming forces and values outside its principles, when it stops feeling the need to continually lay claim to the only real authenticity [on the left], and when it puts to one side the fratricidal cainismo, it may become the exemplary transforming force that many wish it to be.
In my view, the great problems of nations (like we have now in Spain and Andalusia) can rarely be solved by one social group exclusively or in their sole interest, much less by a single party or government.
In Andalusia, and I think you could say almost the same for Spain, we have to eradicate corruption, reform the administration and put it back on track, to face an adverse environment and combat inequality, end our conformism, change are our society and institutions to work differently in order to create more businesses, jobs and wealth. And above all, we must restore the confidence of people, too sick of the institutions and parties but not always willing to throw themselves into the arms of new parties, or parties or white label parties masking recycled politics and politicians.
I think all these are unattainable goals for one party alone. Sacrifice is needed, and by the many not just a few, and a much stronger conviction that will that which can be provided by a monochrome government or a mere pact for power between parties.
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe
*Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Seville. Author of numerous books and scientific papers including: Los amos del mundo (The masters of the world); Las armas del terrorismo financiero (Weapons of financial terrorism); Lo que debes saber para que no te roben la pensión (What you should know so they don’t steal your pension, co-written by Vicenç Navarro), and the latest edition of Economía Política, un conocido manual de introducción a la economía (Political Economy, a well-known manual of introduction to economics). Juan Torres López’s website is Ganas de Escribir.