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Spainish elections: Another turn of the screw

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By a macabre coincidence 20 November, the anniversary of the death of dictator Francisco Franco, saw his political heirs, the right-wing Partido Popular (PP), gain an absolute majority in the Spanish Congress of Deputies. Its leader Mariano Rajoy, now has a clear majority to carry out an even more savage austerity programme on Spain’s workers and peasants than that which has marked the last years of “Socialist” government.

The government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), paid the price of its austerity cuts by losing one third of the votes it obtained in 2008. Its turn to neoliberalism and the inefficacy of the measures taken to try to improve the economic situation saw it lose serious support not only from its working class base of voters but from the capitalist class as well. Zapatero had first tried to save the banking system with a multi-billion loan to some Spanish private and semi-public savings banks before trying to cut the public debt which led to a massive increase in unemployment (more than 21.5% of the labor force). Public budget cuts reduced the salaries and number of public employees and the expenditure in key public services like education, health care and national infrastructures.

Of the PSOE’s lost votes only a very small proportion have gone to the PP of Mariano Rajoy. Most transferred to the United left, Izquierda Unida (IU), the historical left-wing alternative that includes the Communist Party of Spain (PCE); to Union Progreso y Democracia (UPyD), a sort of excision of PSOE that have become the fourth party in number of voters; and to the nationalist parties in Catalonia Convergència i Unió and Amaiur in the Basque region. The IU's recovery is significant, since 2008 saw a historic fall in its vote, but it has now recovered some of its strength, returning 11 ministers to the parliament.

Both IU and UPyD are parties more affected by the unfair electoral system that favours big nation-wide parties, but which also gives an advantage to nationalist parties that concentrate votes in few districts. The Green Party (EQUO) had a mixed result, first they failed to reach any kind of agreement with Izquierda Unida, and failed to get any seats due again to the system, although their actual votes were not that bad (Equo got more votes than 5 parties with seat, even the animalist party (PACMA) got votes that would have allowed for a seat with a more proportional system. The far left coalition (Anticapitalistas) obtained very bad results (a total 24,356 votes or 0.10 per cent). This electoral system has effectively converted the democratic system into a two-party feud.

Amaiur, whose presence in the elections has been facilitated by the peace declared by the armed Basque organisation ETA, has become the biggest Basque party instead of the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ-PNV).

Discontent with the present situation also expressed itself with an increasing abstention (28 per cent) and more than 2.5 per cent of blank and null votes.

All in all, the victory of the right is unquestionable: almost 51 per cent of the valid votes have gone to the conservative parties PP-CiU-PNV (together with other local formations), that have got 60 per cent of the representatives, while the vote of the center and left have been fragmented among a bigger number of parties. Now another period of neoliberal politics await for us to placate the wrath of the gods of the markets: more public budget cuts while reducing taxes to banks and companies, reduction of the size of the public sector (through privatisations of public companies and services), more 'flexibility' in the labor market, contraction of salaries… all to try to become more competitive in the foreign market.

These are the same measures that are the main reason for the existence of the ‘indignados’ of the 15M protest movement. The same measures the PP governments in some Spanish autonomous regions have been applying for several years already to no avail. But if something good has come of these results if at last the real face of the PP will be revealed and its 11 million voters will have to look for somebody else to blame for what their party does: there will be no excuses, no more blame from the central to the autonomous governments or vice versa.

Marxists, too, must advocate a strategy of resistance to this government. The PSOE and the union leaders loyal too it will now come under more pressure to oppose the savage austerity they pioneered. A broad united front of resistance needs to be formed for this and it should also demand a change to the undemocratic electoral system. However grudges between the different groups on the left and uncontained hate for PSOE, will make this really difficult.