Monday, March 03, 2008

Spain - An Election That Seems Very Familiar

For the second time in a row, I am witnessing the build-up to the Spanish election first hand. The last time I was here in the lead up to an election, I witnessed the way an entire country was affected by a horrendous terrorist attack. I also witnessed an incredible collective bravery the likes of which I have never seen before or since. The sight of thousands of Spanish people lining the streets of every major city in Spain in protest at the horror of 3/11 will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a moment that had a profound affect on all those who participated, including myself. However, I think that this event lingered in my mind for rather different reasons.

Upon arriving back in England, I was horrified to learn that the collective bravery of the Spanish was ignored in favour of the preferred stereotype of foreigners as weak willed and scared of the terrorist threat. Although I had witnessed with my very eyes immense bravery, I was being told by every media outlet that the subsequent election showed how weak the Spanish are. People failed to understand the intense anger at the government. The fact that, had the PP won the election, there was a very real danger of violence spilling over in a country that had not long experienced the effect of citizens turning on one another, was casually overlooked. Sneering morons like Douglas Murray had their fill and the truth was somehow obscured.

The current period of pre-election campaigning had Zapatero's PSOE virtually guaranteed of victory. They are roughly 5 percentage points ahead of the Popular Party, and it is inconceivable that this lead will be surrendered. However, from a progressive's point of view, there is little to rejoice in these elections. Replace the PSOE with New Labour and the Popular Party with Cameron's Conservatives, and you have an almost identical political situation. As in the UK, there is very little to choose between the two parties. It would make little difference who was in power, as both parties are beholden to the capitalist economic system. The only other party remotely capable of challenging these two, is Izquierda Unida (or United Left). Much like the Liberal Democrats, they hover around the fringes of the political debate. However, unlike the libs, IU is a viable left-wing alternative to the parties of the establishment. One hopes very much that IU increase their vote across Spain and begin to wield influence although, for the moment at least, this seems unlikely.

This year's election result certainly will not send shockwaves across Europe as the last one did. Rather, this is a case of as you were as the main political parties fight over the much beloved 'centre-ground'. Ah, the surroundings may change, but the political system stays very much the same. And with that, one can be sure that the steady decline in voting, coupled with the erosion of individual liberty, will surely follow.