Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Elections; Xmas shopping; The 3 Wise Men; and the ever-amusing RT TV.

THE ELECTIONS: THE DAY AFTER: If you're not interested in politics (or the future of Spain), skip this, rather long, section.

  • So, no one won. Everyone lost. Fascinating. The people of Spain have spoken. And have confused and disappointed absolutely everyone, with the possible exception of left-wing Podemos.
  • Is this the final end of Francoism and of a 'centre-right' party (PP) with far-right elements??
  • Will we see the resignations of the leaders of both the PP and the PSOE parties??
  • Oh, the irony of having the party that has given Rajoy one of the biggest headaches of his premiership – President Mas of Cataluña - now possibly holding the key to Spain's stability. 
  • Naturally, the stock market fell.


THE LOCAL 3: While Spain’s main parties may be scrabbling to form a pact after no clear winner emerged from Sunday’s general election, one group who can surely bask in victory are Spanish women, who will enjoy their biggest representation ever in the country’s parliament.


THE TELEGRAPH 2: POLITICAL UPRISING: Spain risks months of political paralysis and a corrosive showdown with Germany over fiscal austerity after insurgent movements smashed the traditional two-party system, leaving the country almost ungovernable.


THE TIMES 1: AN END TO CRONY POLITICS: The Spanish general election has called time on the country’s two-party system. Although the incumbent Popular party of Mariano Rajoy has won a slender majority of votes, he will struggle to form a stable government. Two insurgent parties, the centrist Citizens party and the left-leaning populists of Podemos, now control almost 110 seats in the 350-seat lower chamber. They can block or enable any new government line-up.

The result thus marks the death of Bipartidismo, the bipartisan order, by which Spain has been governed since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s. Many older Spaniards will be uneasy with this outcome. The alternation between the Popular party conservatives and the Socialists has made out of Spain a stable and important member of the western alliance. It has also, however, encouraged cronyism and corruption; the two big established parties still hold sway in the countryside but to young urban voters, they stifle new ideas and are bywords for stagnation.

Pressed by Berlin and Brussels Mr Rajoy took an axe to public spending and in so doing made it impossible to repeat his landslide victory of 2011. His showing on Sunday reflected this dismay: the Popular party’s share of the vote has dropped from 44.6% to 28.7%. That is too thin a basis to run a minority government in a country whose system awards the largest party remarkable clout within the legislative process. The prime minister in his rush to retain power may be tempted to offer the Socialists a grand coalition such as the one run by Angela Merkel in Germany. The Socialists show, however, no enthusiasm for such a deal and it would not serve Spain well.

Spain’s interests are best met by a governing coalition that continues to exert fiscal discipline and that does not allow the country to disintegrate chaotically. It should be a government that starts to overhaul the politicised judiciary and that puts an end to the unacceptable delays in investigating corruption. The Spanish constitution must be reformed and the electoral system changed to reflect the electoral drift away from a two-party carve-up. Policies have to be more closely focused on alleviating unemployment, which still hovers at about 21 per cent of the workforce. For young people, the mainspring of the upstart parties, Podemos and the Citizens, unemployment is particularly severe and many are choosing to emigrate.

Podemos and Citizens, movements born out of frustration, agree on many points but not at all on the management of the economy. The Citizens party has an affinity with European liberals: it wants to minimise the role of the state, rejects an industrial policy and has strong ideas on modernising the economy. Podemos wants to end or roll back privatisations. A more natural alignment could be between the Popular party, perhaps with new leadership, and the Citizens but in the complex post-election arithmetic, this would still need the help of separatist members of parliament.

A government that made any major concession to the breakaway of Catalonia would present problems for King Felipe of Spain. It might spark a constitutional crisis. The horse-trading has begun, a new election in February may well be needed but it would be wrong to read the vote as a call for a Syriza-style revolution. The Spanish vote was not a declaration of bankruptcy of the political class but rather an urgent call for it to enter the 21st century.

THE TIMES 2: THE 4 MOST LIKELY ELECTIONS: The party which gains the most votes forms a minority administration which seeks to pass legislation with the help of smaller parties. Polls suggest this will be Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP), which would mean an austerity agenda would prevail. 

If the PP fails to gain enough seats to form a minority government, it may make a pact with Ciudadanos (Citizens). Albert Rivera had ruled out a pact with the PP or the Socialists but the Citizens leader said on the eve of elections that he would not stand in the way of the party which gained the most votes — which analysts took to mean he might favour the PP. Citizens supports continued reduction of the country’s debt and economic reforms. 

More worrying for the markets, and investors, would be an alliance between the Socialists and Podemos, on the far left. Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos leader, has attacked the Socialists and the PP as part of la casta (the elite), but if he fails to form a pact with Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist leader, it may allow the PP to return to power. Many fear that a pact between Podemos and the Socialists would unravel labour reforms designed for growth. 

A less likely outcome might be a coalition between the Socialists and Citizens. To have enough seats to attain a majority — 176 — this coalition may have to include Podemos. This would also threaten labour reforms and fiscal discipline, which economists suggest are essential for Spain’s economy to grow.

And now to something completely different . . . .

XMAS SHOPPING: I went into town to do mine yesterday. I only buy books, on the grounds that everyone should be forced to read more, and because I like the idea of trees being cut down. As ever in Spain, the shop I went to was chaotic – no apparent order to the books and so a need to ask the (busy) assistants everything you want to know. And when you've been pointed to the right section(s), you then have to constantly move your head from side to side to read the titles, as no one in Spain has realised it'd be a good idea to have these all written either from top to bottom or vice versa. Nonetheless, I managed to do all my shopping in around 30 minutes.

There were longish queues outside 2 shops and I wondered what was being sold in them. I should have guessed it was tickets for the 2 huge lotteries of the year, one of which will be held this morning. Though the chances of winning – unless you're a corrupt politician – are infinitesimally small, huge sums are spent on this. An average of €60 for each person in Galicia, the local press said yesterday. The politicians, by the way, buy the winning tickets as a way of laundering black cash. One such claimed in court he'd won 8 times. Not that he expected anyone to believe this, just accept it as true.

THOSE 3 WISE MEN: They came from Spain, says the Catholic church. Specifically from the centre of global wisdom back then, Andalucia (Al-Andalús). So says Pope Benedict XVI in his 2012 book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. Last time I looked, this wasn't exactly east of the Middle East. But who really cares? Is there any intelligent person left who believes everything the Bible records?

FINALLY . . . RT TV: It's been amusing to see the change of the channel's focus (target?) since the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey. It's become the latter state, of course, and there's been no limit to the scorn and the number and variety of accusations hurled at it. These include the insistence – by Putin, no less – that it was done to somehow assist the USA. The previous target of the West (particularly the USA) has, temporarily no doubt, been relegated to also-ran status.

And the Facebook foto: This, they say, is what Jesus really looked like:-

The truly amazing thing is how close this is to the hilariously botched resotoration job done by a woman in Spain a couple of years ago . . .

So, was she divinely inspired?


Thirty girl said...

So, I finally decided to spend some of my precious time reading your little blog.. And the first thing I see is a (rather long) monologue about politics.. Really Colin? Does anyone actually care about the future of Spain? A man can dream. It's nice of you to give the option to skip this whole part. I did try though.. I liked your opinion on it.. After that listing, it got a little bit boring (or difficult perhaps, because I haven't been following it at all.. Cause.. Who cares a sit?)

And by then only a little part is left. The part that made me read this blog. About the Xmas shopping and all.

So and so, I amused myself reading your blog shitting in a chair!

Colin Davies said...
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Colin Davies said...
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Colin Davies said...

Hola, guapa. Well, what a nice surprise. Made me LOL. What's with Dutch girls? Are they all funny? So glad you finally got round to reading my blog. Certainly took your time. But you could have chosen a better one to start with. Scroll down for posts that are less heavy. Hope that you are cleaner this days and learning to sit properly. Also hope you enjoyed your holiday. Look forward to seeing you and Jan in Jan. (Jan in Jan!!. LOL.) Just think - this wouldn't be happening if you weren't so cheeky. And stupidly trusting. I need your email address. Or should I say I'd like to have it, so that I can tell you things you don't now about Fifty Girl. Please ask her for mine and send it to me. Hast pronto. Besos.