By now virtually everyone must know the results of the Spanish elections. I suppose the real questions people are asking involve how to interpret them. I would advise against jumping to hasty conclusions here. I picked up one comment on Crooked Timber to the effect that:
“anybody who decided to vote Socialist after the bombings presumably expected that the Socialists would reverse the government?s Iraq policy and do less in the war on terror than the government was likely to do.?
I think this view is a mistake, and doesn’t reveal much understanding about the dynamic of Spainsh politics over the last decade.
In the first place this type of argument is ridiculous. Anyone who was actively ?anti-war? – the people carrying the ?paz? placards – was already going to vote PSOE well before the bombing happened. Now the PSOE won because a lot of people who previously weren’t going to vote PSOE decided to do so.
So what changed? Well what actually seems to have happened was that a lot of former PSOE voters who had been abstaining since the Gonzalez corruption scandals went back and voted. It was the high level of participation that gave PSOE the victory.
It is not plausible that all these people were suddenly looking for a radical and dramatic change in Spains external policy. Any who were will, in any event, be disappointed. Rodriguez Sabbatero is totally pragmatic.
I think to understand what happened you need to go back to the Prestige and other similar issues. These voters were tired of having the feeling they were being lied to. In fact, while the PP definitely placed excessive emphasis on Eta (a mistake anyone could have made, eg I did too), there is no real evidence of any active attempt to mislead people during the last week. What happened was that in the critical moment they reaped the whirlwind they had sown on previous occasions.
I don?t think there is any evidence whatsoever that most Spaniards want a ?softer? policy on terrorism. Quite the contrary, they want a more effective one. One which is less focused on scoring political points: either internally or externally.
I am surprised no-one here has mentioned Spain?s relations with Morocco. This is important. The difference between full blown OBL Al Qaeda, and North African Islamic Jihad may seem like an excessively subtle one to many, but it could be important. (See Collounsbury’s important comment in this regard here, and his blog in general).
Rather than simply concentrating on the invasion of Iraq, you might like to think about the ?re-invasion? of Perejil. You might like to think about the daily tragedy of the ?Pateros? and how this is seen in Morocco. You might like to think about the impact of the anti Moroccan riots in El Ejido a couple of years ago, and how the Mosque was violated, the Koran torn up and urinated on. You might like to think about a lot of things.
Clearly the fanatics who carry out this and other atrocities are unlikely to be swayed one way or the other by such issues. Maybe, however, those young people who form the recruiting ground for the next generation of terrorists will be. We need an anti-terrorism policy which has two fronts.
In this regard there is plenty to welcome about what is happening in Spain. In the first place the response inside Spain to the probable Moroccan connection has not been as negative for the community of Moroccan immigrants as might have been expected.
Spain is a society of contradictions, and this is just one of them. Of course there have been plenty of cases of minor incidents, but on the whole there is no ‘reaction’ against the Moroccan community.
Reading yesterdays election results is a complicated matter. On the whole I am not pessimistic internally. In particular the new government will have doing something about the situation of Spain’s 2 million plus illegal immigrants somewhere high up the agenda.
The fact that to date there is no evidence connecting Eta with the bombing means that moving toward a more definitive solution of some of Spain’s internal divisions may now be possible, the incoming government is committed to a process of structural reform.
On external policy I wouldn’t expect any dramatic change, the difference are likely to be more on the level of style and presentation. The Al Qaeda link puts important questions on the table for the whole of Europe, not just for Spain. So I see a Spain which is now more anchored in the bosom of an EU which is more focused on the question of how to combat this kind of international terrorism, and who knows, possibly a Europe and a United States who are now more together. Would this be too much to ask?
On these pages we have had considerable debate about the question of Turkish membership of the EU. But remember behind Turkey comes the issue of Morroco, and in this area I don’t rule anything out completely. Despite all the attention focused on the Iraq war question, I see much of this as looking to the past. We have to think of the present situation in Iraq, as Frans says the bombings in Karbala, the way to end the violence there, we have to look to a more coherent all EU approach, to a better climate of coordinated relations with the United States, in sum, to a much more effective anti terrorism policy. To end on a positive note: I sense we may have a Spain which is now more open to active dialogue with Morocco. At least I certainly I hope so.