Guy Hedgecoe | Fixation with electoral numbers is one of the most unhealthy obsessions of contemporary Spanish politics. It’s a mindset that places enormous emphasis on victory at the ballot box, in the belief that it will bring with it not just political power, but moral righteousness.
Articles by Guy Hedgecoe
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Spain may not be the most common point of entry for most migrants and refugees to Europe – last year it received only two percent of arrivals – but it does seem to be facing increasing challenges in this area. Cities like Málaga and Tarifa, on the south coast, are currently struggling to manage arrivals, which so far this year have doubled those of the equivalent period in 2016.
Some things never seem to change and the Spanish left’s inability to unite against the right has looked like one of them. The two general elections and months of political paralysis Spain lived through between December 2015 and October 2016 saw the PSOE and Podemos locked in a battle for control of the left which turned poisonous at times and allowed the PP’s Mariano Rajoy to stay in power simply by doing what he does best – sitting back and watching.
Another solemn announcement by the Catalan government, another date for the diary. On October 1, the Catalan people will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the following question: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?”. The Catalan separatist camp, led by regional premier Carles Puigdemont, hopes for a victory that will then see the north-eastern region declare independence from Spain.
In these uncertain times, politics seems to have lost many of the certainties that had been so clearly signposted for voters in the Western World in recent decades. The terms “left” and “right” have often become hard to pin down, especially since the arrival of a gamut of disruptive populisms.
It was the result Spain’s Socialist bigwigs had feared: a resounding victory for Pedro Sánchez in their party’s primary on Sunday, beating Andalusia premier Susana Díaz and former Basque premier Patxi López, to become leader for a second time.
It makes for a good headline: “Spanish parties vote to exhume dictator Franco”. Apart from the implied drama of digging up a feared former ruler, those words suggest that there is now a consensus regarding the country’s historical memory and a willingness to act on it.
The gathering of endorsement signatures by candidates ahead of the leadership contest of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is not usually seen as overly significant. The numbers are a vague indicator, no more, of the support a particular candidate can expect in the final vote by party activists. But this time, ahead of the PSOE’s May 21 primary, it’s different.
Whatever you think of Mariano Rajoy, you can’t deny his ability to dig in. When in opposition, as leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), he survived two general election losses, as well as thwarting mutinies within his own ranks; as prime minister since 2011 he has ridden through economic near-meltdown, the threat of new parties Podemos and Ciudadanos and a torrent of corruption scandals.
Guy Hedgecoe | When it was announced last month that Basque terrorist group ETA was planning to disarm by April 8th, a couple of editors working for foreign media rang me to ask the same thing: How important is this? It was a fair question. There are two very different perspectives on the separatist organisation’s decision to give up its weapons via a team of international intermediaries in the south of France on Saturday.