Daily Archives: June 4, 2009

Europe 2009: Spain

Spain will elect its 50 MEPs to the European Parliament on June 7, 2009. This is Spain’s seventh European election and sixth regular election (Spain voted in a by-election in 1987 after it joined the EU in 1986). Spain has lost 4 seats since 2004, and it had lost 10 seats prior to the 2004 election.

Spanish politics are very polarized. The governing party is the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), or the Socialist Party, which is led by current Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; and the Popular Party (PP), the main conservative party and ancestor of old right-wing Franquist groups, led by Mariano Rajoy. Spain’s Communist Party (PCE) is the largest party in the old United Left (IU) coalition. The IU (and by consequence the PCE) has gone down the road of rapid decline common to most Communist Parties in Western Europe since the fall of the Wall. The PSOE, PP and IU are the three-major nationwide parties, though the new Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), a socially liberal though strongly anti-federalist and anti-nationalist party has a seat in the Spanish lower house and seems to be posting some important gains.

Spain is also famous for its Basque and Catalan nationalists, though there also exists similar nationalist movements in other regions such as Galicia or the Canary Islands. The main Catalan nationalist party is known as Convergence and Union (CiU), in fact a coalition of liberal and conservative nationalist parties.  However, the CiU has an ambiguous position on independence, and attracts nationalists but also autonomists. The left-wing Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) is clearly pro-independence. In the Basque Country, the main nationalist party remains the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), which is centre-right. However, smaller left-wing nationalist parties also exist, such as Basque Solidarity (EA), Aralar, or the various names adopted by the ETA’s political branch, Batasuna. One of those names is Euskal Herritarrok (EH) or the Communist Party of the Basque Homeland. However, these recent fronts have been banned by the Spanish government.

The last Euro election in June 2004 was held shortly after Zapatero’s PSOE defeated the governing PP after the May 12, 2004 Madrid train bombings. Zapatero went on to win re-election in 2008.

PSOE (PES) 43.46% winning 25 seats (+1)
PP (EPP) 41.21% winning 24 seats (-3)
Galeusca Coalition 5.15% winning 2 seats (-3)
United Left 4.72% winning 2 seats (-2)
Europe of Peoples Coalition 2.45% winning 1 seat (-1)
European Coalition 1.27% winning 0 seats (-2)

EH won one seat in 1999, but did not run in 2004. The Galeusca coalition was composed of the CiU, the Basque EAJ and the Galician BNG. The Europe of Peoples coalition was the left-wing (more radical) alliance composed of the ERC, the Basque EA and smaller parties from other regions. The European Coalition was composed of the Canarian CC and smaller parties from other regions. This elections, the new nat coalitions are CEU, Coalición por Europa, which is the new alliance formed between the 2004 Galeusca-Pueblos de Europa and Coalición Europea. This is the right-wing alliance of nats (Basque EAJ, Catalonian CiU from Galeusca + CC, minor Valencian, Majorcan, and Andalusian nats from CE). The Galician BNG, which was part of Galeusca (thus the Gal) in 2004 is now in the left-wing alliance of nats, Europa de los Pueblos (EdP) which includes the tiny Spanish Greenies. EdP includes the Catolonian ERC, BNG, the leftie Basque nats (Aralar and EA), and smaller nats from Majorca and Aragon.

Spain is currently one the EU members worst hit by the economic crisis – Latvia being the other major victim in the EU. Spanish unemployment is around 17.4%, the highest in the European Union. The most pessimists say that it could very well hit 20% by the end of 2009. You would normally expect a government governing one of the worst economic situations in Europe (and the world) and presiding over nearly 20% unemployment to be in awful shape in polls. However, due to the polarized nature of Spanish politics, you have a relatively close political makeup. The PP is between 40 and 42% in polls, the PSOE is between 38 and 42%. The reason the PP can’t take off is because the legacy of el caudillo, Francisco Franco, still polarizes Spanish opinion. A number of conservatives (whose family opposed Franco) would never bring themselves to vote for the PP, which has Franquist roots (though the party itself doesn’t play on those). At the same time, people would never vote for the evil communist-socialist PSOE. In addition, the PP and PSOE’s electorates are pretty rock-solid and they show relatively little movement once solidly in place.

In terms of polling for minor parties, the CEU will likely hold Galeusca’s two seats (one CiU, one EAJ) and EdP will do likewise (one ERC). The IU’s seat predictions are really fluctuating between a loss of one or no net gains (2 seats or 1). The UPyD is given one seat by a vast majority of pollsters.

The top candidates for the major parties are Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Minister of Justice until 2007 for the PSOE; Jaime Mayor Oreja, a Basque deputy and former rabidly anti-nationalist Minister of Interior for the PP; Ramon Tremose of the CiU for CEU; Oriol Junqueras of the ERC for EdP; Willy Meyer, an MEP, for IU; and Francisco Sosa Wagner for UPyD. Libertas’ Spanish outfit is the Catalan Citizens, a liberal anti-nationalist (kind of like UPyD) in Catalonia.