More on the Spanish elections

If you’re looking for an eminently sensible warning againt misinterpreting the PSOE’s electoral upset of the PP, see Edward’s post below. This here is just my own ?0.02 cast in about the margins.

I should start by confessing that I am not at all sorry to see Rajoy disappointed of his expected post. This is odd, given that I am likelier to agree with the PP then with PSOE on many of the boring policy details that are 99% of a government’s job. But it’s hard to jump over one’s own shadow, and I cannot like a party that gives a home to some who still harbour a sneaking regard for Francoism. Even Aznar recently dismissed with contempt proposals to reinter victims of the Falangist regime, still lying in the mass graves in which the francoists dumped them. Not to say that the PP are not democrats. But they are rather like the US Republicans playing to racist southerners to beef up their electoral numbers. My feeling is that, if you can only win with the votes of those who still harbour some attachment to the tiny plump high-voiced Generalissimo, you shouldn’t want to win. (Indeed, I have another feeling that the new government, as one of its first acts, should dynamite the Valle de los Caidos; but then my feelings towards the relicts of Spanish fascism are perhaps a bit strong.)

And yet all that said, I wonder whether the Spanish electorate was not unduly harsh. They seem to feel that the government was playing politics by focusing on ETA. I’m not so sure. When bombs go off in Spain, sad to say, it’s not unreasonable for eyes to turn towards the pais vasco. And, in the immediate aftermath of an outrage like that in Madrid, I’m not entirely sure that the government is obligated to share all relevant information with the public. Surely the first order of business is forensic, and to the extent that public transparency could compromise investigations, the public will have to wait.

Nor do I believe, as Abiola Lapite appears to do, that in the PSOE’s victory the ‘terrorists have won’. Mr Lapite may wish to recall that the previous PSOE government was not exactly kittenish towards terrorists (this Google search might help). And, though I myself was cheering on the attack on Iraq from the Sceptical Liberal Hawk camp, I rejected and continue to reject the thinking that equates opposition to the US invasion with surrender to al Qaeda. In the time since the invasion it should have become manifestly clear even to those for whom it wasn’t clear beforehand that Hussein had SFA to do with al Qaeda’s outrages. And pace Mr Lapite, it became quite clear last week that Mr Bush’s campaign hasn’t put paid to al Qaeda’s ability to commit further outrages.

8 thoughts on “More on the Spanish elections

  1. It may be the case that the PP ‘still harbours some who have a sneaking regard for Francoism’;afterall most political parties have their nutters. But please do not fall into the trap of thinking that that fact in any way defines what the PP is or stands for, and please resist any implication that a regard for Francoism is even remotely a feature of the Spanish political scene. It is so only in the minds of the PSOE supporters who still seem to be fighting the civil war (favourite quote, a socialist of the PP ‘this is the party that killed Garcia Lorca’). The PP has moved on.

  2. I don’t imagine that the PP are all closet francoists. (I had thought this adequately reflected in my statement that they are not non-democrats, but apparently it wasn’t.) I do think the comparison to the American Republicans quite apt, though. There are those in Spain who haven’t moved on quite as far as they ought; and PP seeks to give them a comfy home. I know not a few PP supporters who, not all that very long ago, were all excited by Blas Pinar. And I sometimes have to question how very far on some of them have moved.

  3. “Even Aznar recently dismissed with contempt proposals to reinter victims of the Falangist regime, still lying in the mass graves in which the francoists dumped them.”

    It’s worse Mrs T, the relatives even have to stump up the cash for themselves to have the boidies identified. There is no judicial investigation to my knowledge.

    “And yet all that said, I wonder whether the Spanish electorate was not unduly harsh.”

    I agree entirely. The PP paid the price of earlier arrogance and ‘sleight of hand’ with information. We could even go back to the mad cow issue if you wanted. What happened was that moderate voters finally said: Basta Ya (that’s enough) even if for once, due to the magnitude of the problem, the PP politicians were, more or less, playing fair.

    “It is so only in the minds of the PSOE supporters who still seem to be fighting the civil war”

    Well I’m no PSOE supporter, like Mrs T, I would normally find myself being accused of being a neo-liberal (which again I am not)and I think there are plenty of ‘skeletons in the cupboard’.

    I mean whatever the beliefs of that baker who was shot dead in Pamplona by a policeman, it is odd that not one government spokesman came forward to ‘defend the rule of law’. Whatsmore, the TVE 1 bulletin that evening didn’t even mention the affair, even though the other stations – Canal Plus, catalan TV3 – had full coverage.

    The problem is that a country where a policeman who disagrees with you feels able to take out his regulation issue gun and shoot you dead is still far from having a ‘normal’ democracy.

  4. “Nor do I believe, as Abiola Lapite appears to do, that in the PSOE’s victory the ‘terrorists have won’.”

    In as far as the PP was coasting to victory just before the attacks, only to subsequently suffer a sharp reversal at the polls, I fail to see how the perpetrators won’t interpret this as a successful intervention on their part into the domestic politics of Spain – and this holds whether or not ETA or al-Qaeda was responsible.

    Mr. Zapatero’s loud announcement of his intention to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq only adds to the problem, as other terrorists will draw a very dangerous lesson from it, rather than any nuanced considerations about what his ultimate intentions are.

    This election upset is a massive propaganda coup for al-Qaeda, whether or not that organization was responsible for the outrages on Thursday, and we can expect more of the same to follow in the run-up to elections elsewhere in Europe. In that sense, it is entirely correct to say that the Spanish elections were a massive victory for terrorism, regardless of how committed or not the PSOE actually is to fighting terrorism. The message is crystal clear – bomb the Europeans at a critical time and you can get them to break with the Americans.

  5. Well many democracies, let alone young ones, struggle with the rule of law under the pressure of terrorism, none more than Spain under Gonzalez. I assume that no-one is suggesting that in conducting his war against ETA Gonzalez was exhibiting signs of closet Francoism. Spanish democacy is imperfect (although in some ways better than UK democracy). It does not follow that the PP hankers after Franco,the Pamplona shooting notwithstanding.

  6. Mrs. T,

    You’ve actually succeeded in making me feel better.

    Thank you. [No irony intended]

  7. “Nor do I believe, as Abiola Lapite appears to do, that in the PSOE’s victory the ‘terrorists have won’. Mr Lapite may wish to recall that the previous PSOE government was not exactly kittenish towards terrorists.

    I’m not sure that willingness to engage in internal repression is a factor in the analysis of what Al-Qaeda has won. In the long run the war on terrorism is about what people think in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda can surely argue in Arabic better than the BBC can discount it that they toppled a government and got a change in policy on troops in Iraq that they favored in the bargain. Hedging from Zapatero will not effect how Al-Qaeda can play this change in the Middle East. I agree that you can be against the war in Iraq and for the War on Terrorism, but we shouldn’t pretend that the division between the two is so clear in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda has a propaganda victory far beyond the mere killings that they so relish. They have a good claim at forcing a change in government and forcing a change in Middle East policy more to their liking. The best the Socialists can do considering their stance on Iraq is to take some very public and very strong foreign policy stance. Cracking down on terrorism internally isn’t anything if Al-Qaeda gets to effect your foreign policy. And even the appearance of effecting your foreign policy in a way that they want ends up being a huge victory for them when dealing with people in the Middle East. For those who might lean toward Al-Qaeda they can say, “See we have great power, come join us.” For those would would oppose them they can say, “See, the West is weak. They will never be able to protect you from us.” To both they have stronger evidence than ever.

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