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What is actually at stake in the Spanish elections?

dinsdag 8 december 2015

On Thursday 3 December it was all about the Spanish elections at ProDemos. The moderator Marcel Bamberg guided us through the night filled with expert opinions on the upcoming Spanish elections on 20 December.

Otto Holman kicked the night off. Holman is a European integration specialist from the University of Amsterdam. His question of the evening was ‘Politics as usual or historical transition?’. He points out that we live in a historical era. “For the first time in history it seems that the political parties have no other choice than to form a coalition. The political parties in the spotlight are Podemos, Partido Popular (PP), Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) and Ciudadanos. PP and PSOE used to get 80% or more of the votes. For the first time in history the outcome seems to be different.”

Podemos is an interesting player in these elections. The party is relatively young. In one year they grew from 300.000 to 400.000 voters. The growth is enormous and some say it is hard to manage such an increase of popularity without risking the rise of corruption in the party.

Holman predicts PP will be the biggest party after the elections and PSOE and Ciudadanos will fight for second place. He doesn’t expect much from Podemos.

The hot item of the evening was the possible independence of Catalonia.

After the brief lecture of Otto Holman Amadeu Altafaj joined us through Skype. He is the permanent representative of the Catalan Government to the EU.

He describes the Catalonian situation for us. The wish to be independent is not out of the blue. The last elections ended up in a referendum. The results were that 48% voted yes, 49% no and 11% was undecided. A majority in parliament, however, is still in favour of independence.  Priority should be given to an open dialogue with the next government and with the EU institution. Catalonians have invested their hope in Podemos, because this is the only party with a positive attitude towards possible negotiations about Catalonian independence. The other three have publicly denounced the Catalonian dream. Altafaj expects the EU to participate. “First they ignored it as long as they could. And now we are at a stage where the EU is concerned about the situation and urges the Spanish government to take control.”

It was up to Ana Cinthya Uribe to shed some light on the perspectives of the biggest political parties in Spain. She is from Mexico and moved to Barcelona eleven years ago. Five years ago she got to know the StemWijzer of ProDemos and went back to Spain to develop an election help herself for the Spanish elections:  www.elecciones.es.

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She gave the audience two statements they could be in favour of or against. In the discussions that followed, the audience sure didn’t forget to bring their Spanish temperament.

The first statement is “Catalonia should hold a referendum about the independence” The room coloured mostly green with the green voting cards held in the air: the majority was in favour. It was no surprise that the only party that shared this opinion was Podemos.

Uribe gave a quick impression of the possible seating arrangement after the elections. PP might get 114 to 120 seats. PSOE will be seated in 97 seats, this means they keep setting a new record for seat loss, which is quite surprising for an opposition party. Ciudadanos will have 63 seats. Podemos 22.

Important to say is that polls have shown to be unrepresentative. “41% of the people said they didn’t know yet who to vote for and 24% of those people couldn’t say which parties they were doubting between. We will only know where the Spanish politics are headed after the elections on 20 December.”

What changed in the Spanish political atmosphere is that the political parties figured out that having a political program is essential. Uribe: “This is great news when you are making a voting application.”

The second statement is “Spain should accept and implement the economic policies as set out by the EU”. There is no majority in favour of or against this statement, the outcome is a tie. Holman perfectly summarizes the sentiment in the room: “Spain should follow EU rules, but the rules are wrong. They are not focused on social cohesion, only on the financial side of things.”