EU elections: Sexist remark ruins Spain prospects

Former minister of Agriculture and a historic politician of the conservative party, Miguel Ángel Arias Cañete had a PR slippery moment last week in the first debate with the socialist candidate Elena Valenciano.

“A debate between a man and woman is very complicated because if you abuse your intellectual superiority, or whatever it may be, you end up looking like a machista [male chauvinist] who is cornering a defenseless woman,” he explained the day after in a TV interview by a famous female anchor.

His words brought an old, heated debate on the table.

But Mr Arias Cañete will also be confronted with bitter censure for polluting sea waters in its former position as ship chandler, regardless of whether or not those charges are grounded. Supplying oil offshore doesn’t qualify as best practices in terms of environmental conduct. The more so, when you serve afterwards as Minister in charge of that policy.

This inconceivable mistake will weigh long on Spain’s hopes to secure a first-rate seat in the forthcoming Commission. They have endured a severe blow. No one expects the ruling party candidate to snatch the highly coveted Trade portfolio. His unfortunate remark on women’s inferior intellectual capacity may drive him to second-rate responsibilities. This unexpected setback would reduce Spain’s influence in a high profile European institution.

Other governments are discreetly urging Spain to nominate another candidate for a Commission seat. They seem appalled at the prospect of endorsing someone bound to become the target of scathing attacks in Parliament.

As usual, Prime Minister Rajoy will resist those pressures. And Spain, as usual, will become a loser in the European scene. It lost all opportunities to secure a seat in the permanent governing body of the European Central Bank canvassing an unsuited candidate. Now, a sexist remark may ruin the chances of getting a high-profile portfolio in the European Commission.

Should polling prospects prove right, the overwhelming control of the European Parliament exerted by the two mainstream political parties may come to an end. In a volatile Chamber supporting a candidate laden with so blatant handicaps, might prove impossible.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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