19 December 2015 ~ 0 Comentarios

The rotten leg

by Carlos Alberto Montaner

elecciones

I write on the eve of the Spanish elections. According to the polls, bipartisanship is over. The great political forces are fragmenting into four. Regrettably, one of the legs of that new bench brings within itself a serious destabilizing factor.

Let me explain.

After the death of Franco, from the restoration of democracy until the mid-1970s, the center-right (UCD and PP) governed for 17 years, divided into three periods (Suárez-Calvo Sotelo, Aznar and Rajoy), while the center-left (PSOE) governed for 22 years (González and R. Zapatero). During the democracy, Felipe González occupied the post of Prime Minister for the longest consecutive period: 14 years.

These almost-40 years, built on a similar period of Franco dictatorship full of lights and shadows, have been the best in Spain’s history. The country took a leap toward development and modernity, achieved an annual GNP of 30,000 dollars and saw an unprecedented growth in public works. It was the period when half a dozen Spanish companies became the largest foreign investors in Latin America.

Spain is today one of the world’s most pleasant abodes. It is one of the few nations with 50 or more cities that are beautiful and perfectly habitable. Longevity is very high, social violence is minimal. According to all standards, Spain is a First World nation; it does not lead that segment, but it doesn’t trail it, either. It lies in a pleasant, reasonably comfortable middle ground, as reported by the Human Development Index published annually by the United Nations. In 2014, it occupied 26th place among the almost 200 nations surveyed.

What has happened? If bipartisanship has evidently succeeded, why are Spaniards about to crush it at the polls?

In my opinion, the basic reason is a change in the priorities of Spanish society. The main objective of the 1970s and ’80s was to consolidate democracy in the country. They were tough years, in which military conspiracies alternated with the bombs and assassinations of ETA and Terra Lliure, Basque and Catalonian terrorists who attempted to create — by blood and fire — pro-independence dictatorships in the Soviet style.

To counteract that dangerous drift, Spain, hand in hand with the PSOE, which had abandoned the Marxist superstitions, joined the European Union and NATO and sped up the dismantling of the productive apparatus owned by the state, which had been created in the essentially statist era of Francoism. The Popular Party stayed on the same liberalizing path after winning the elections but was more careful with public spending and the macroeconomic variables, which facilitated the country’s access to the euro. Spain had done its homework.

The priorities today are different. Now that democracy has been achieved, the majority in Spanish society want good government, honesty in the administration of public funds — neglected by both the PSOE and the PP — and economic opportunities for the 22 percent of unemployed people. 

The great majority is satisfied with Spain’s membership in the European Union; it does not question that NATO is an excellent protective shield and does not argue that the market, private property and democracy constitute a sociopolitical model — liberal democracy — that has proved unbeatable, so far. It does debate, as do other majorities everywhere else, the amount of fiscal pressure and the best use for the taxes collected. 

However, one of the four formations that will replace the PP-PSOE bipartisanship has different characteristics. It is dangerously anti-system. I refer to Podemos, the Spanish version of neocommunism that has burst onto the nation’s political stage under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias. The purpose of this group, or at least of its leaders, is not to improve the quality of liberal democracy but to destroy it.

This radical politician with long hair and short-sighted and dangerous ideas has been seen on TV making harebrained statements, such as asserting that he envies Chavism, proposing that all Spaniards be given 650 euros a month as basic income, attacking the private communications media, affirming that Spain’s foreign debt should not be paid, defending Spain’s departure from NATO, and proposing the installation of the guillotine, with an ominous mixture of black humor and real threat.

Any post-election pact that includes this group will be counterproductive. When the democrats gave in to the fascists and the Nazis, you know what happened. When the Venezuelans opened the door to the Chavists, the country collapsed. That’s the rotten leg of this new bench.

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