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Democracy

Spain’s Fearful Old Order Entrenches Itself

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The Spanish People’s Party is changing the electoral law in Castilla-La Mancha to ensure that it can maintain a provincial parliamentary majority even while receiving a minority of votes (1). In some countries, this is called “single party dictatorship” and opposed, but not in Spain. Here, it has gone practically without notice or interest by the public. Given that the People’s Party already has an absolute majority in 9 of Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities (including Castilla-La Mancha) and controls two more (Extremadura and Aragón), the potential for the PP to perpetuate itself in power in the “Spanish heartland” is too great to ignore.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the Partido Popular must adore Hugo Chavez. This sort of electoral rigging of the system is precisely the Bolivarian Revolutionary tactics that the PP accuses Podemos of wishing to implement should they ever win an election; but the Populares have never shied away from hypocrisy and corruption. They want to shield their interests and perpetuate their hold on power; they are not going to let a little thing like representative democracy get in the way.

pp control of ccaa

Between these electoral shenangins, the proposed “Citizen Security Law”(2), and the hollow promise of the coronation of a new king, Spaniards and those of us living in Spain are in a pretty fix. Felipe may mean well, but you know the old saying: ça plus change, ça plus la meme chose(3). The new king will quickly learn who wields real power in the country, and it is not the monarch. In any event, his reign is off to a great start: even as he was promising a new beginning with respect, dignity and dialogue for all Spaniards, his police were busy charging into and arresting peaceful demonstrators (4) who were calling for a referendum on the monarchy.

Yes, we can say that “en España empieza a amanecer” (5) (a new day is dawning in Spain).

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Sources and Notes:

(1) Lucio A. Muñoz, “El PP reforma la Ley Electoral en C-LM para asegurarse la reelección,” La Gaceta, 20 June 2014

(2) “La Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, a debate,” La Gaceta, 26 March 2014

(3) The more things change, the more things stay the same.

(4) It was an unauthorized demonstration at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, though there were no violent acts until police in riot gear arrived. A. López de Miguel, “La Policía carga contra la manifestación republicana en Sol,” Publico.es, 19 June 2014

(5) From “Cara al Sol” (Face to the Sun), the catchy little jingle that was also Spain’s national anthem during Franco’s de facto government

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Discussion

6 Responses to “Spain’s Fearful Old Order Entrenches Itself”

  1. Dear Mr. Betancor,

    while in America you are ‘only’ a Democrat, in Spain you are starting to become a ‘revolutionary’ – in 1776 sense, of course -.

    P.S.: Apologies for me unseriousness on explaining my impressions

    Posted by Manel Sanchez Ruiz | July 28, 2014, 09:24
    • Mr. Sánchez,

      There is indeed a powerful revolutionary current in American politics, running through Jefferson and Jackson, through both Roosevelts, and into modern times. Americans ignore or forget this powerful rejuvenating force at their peril. I am indeed very hopeful that America will soon experience a new – always peaceful, of course – political revolution that will restore the Republic to something approximating its foundations. I am convinced that Spain urgently requires such a political revolution too; also peaceful, as I have always indicated. Far from being insulted by being called a “revolutionary”, I completely agree; and I am very happy you have so accurately identified the tendency in my thinking. I am very much a disciple of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy.

      In any event, if Spain doesn’t embark on a course of Jacksonian revolutionary reform, I fear that it might embark on a far more extremist brand: whether it be “Bolivarian” or reactionary is hard to predict, but neither is desirable.

      Kind regards,

      Fernando Betancor

      Posted by fdbetancor | July 28, 2014, 11:31
  2. Dear Mr. Betancor,
    Thank you once again for reviewing all comments on your posts. Actually, when I read back my comment I admit that it was a little bit telegraphic. As yourself, I do not see Mr. Verstrynge’s past as disqualifying him. Personally, I appreciate that he has always been able to explain his positions quite convincingly; as well in the past as nowadays. I can only agree with many of his reasoning.
    My only doubt is if being in the first raw of the demonstration is not a pose…
    Mr. Verstrynge knows perfectly if a demonstration is legal or not, and that precise one was not (a march against monarchy being held the very same day as coronation ceremony nearby). Furthermore, Jorge Verstrynge has many more opportunities and much more effective ways to publicize his thoughts other than flattering a republican flag during coronation ceremony. So there my doubt persists!
    BTW: your other post on Catalonia-Spain is every day more hot news… will see what happens.

    Posted by Godofredo Murillo | July 4, 2014, 18:48
    • Dear Mr. Murillo,

      Sorry for not responding sooner, I was on holiday in my country. Your point about the demonstrations being illegal is perfectly correct, and I agree with them, though not every illegal march should be so. Sometimes people must break the letter of the law to uphold the spirit of it, or we would never have achieved the Civil Rights Act in the US or the end of apartheid in South Africa. Mr. Verstrynge was not alone in that demonstration either; and if he has other means of making his position clear, his fellow demonstrators were less well known and less able to have their voices heard.

      Spain is a country which is experiencing a dangerous trend in the suppression of dissent: that is not only my opinion, it is the opinion expressed by numerous international organizations including the EU. It would have been a very simply and powerful initiative on the part of the new King to expressly forbid any suppression of republican sentiment: it would have cost him nothing, since the number of protesters was very small, and it would have underlined his message of “renewal” and his “conviction to listen to every Spaniard’s voice and treat them with dignity.” That promise is already ringing hollow.

      Posted by fdbetancor | July 9, 2014, 10:53
  3. Good post, as usual. A little short to my taste. Would like to comment on “septuagenarian professor” Jorge Verstrynge, maybe you are not aware of his peculiar political career: in the 80’s he was secretary general (#2 after President Manuel Fraga) of Alianza Popular (AP). AP is the germ of the present PP, which was formed from the union of AP + PDP (christian-democrats) + PL (Liberal Party). AP was the biggest of the three parties, by far, and the most conservative of them. Verstrynge was amongst the most radical and rightist members of AP. Excelent public speaker.

    Posted by Godofredo Murillo | June 20, 2014, 18:05
    • I was in a bit of a hurry today, Mr. Murillo, as I had to pick up my son at school; but have no fear, I fully intend to expand upon the subject!!

      I did read up on Prof. Verstynge and his political career, but nothing I found disqualified him from being both a professor and a septuagenarian, nor in having been arrested for no good reason that I could find except his protest un favor of a referendum. So radical right or not, I still count him as a victim of police repression.

      It is even more interesting perhaps that such a person would be there in the first place.

      Posted by fdbetancor | June 20, 2014, 18:15

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