The southern most region of Spain, Andalucía, has always been a socialist fiefdom but the centre right Partido Popular came very close to toppling PSOE from power in the 2012 regional elections.
Now nearly a year on the opinion polls put PSOE firmly back in the lead. The socialists account for 38 per cent of the votes, four more than the PP. This level of support would not allow PSOE to govern on its own; it would still need the backing of the far left Izquierda Unida in a coalition – the exact formation that governs Andalucía now.
These are the conclusions of a study by Capdea - part of the University of Granada - that shows the national collapse of support for the Partido Popular in Andalucía as elsewhere in Spain.
This dramatic collapse after the November 2011 general election triumph was first brought on by the PP’s handling of the financial crisis. To that has now been added the major corruption scandals engulfing the party at the highest levels. However Capdea took its soundings before the full implications of the Bárcenas corruption scandal became known. This fiasco surrounds the former treasurer of the Partido Popular after it became known he had secret overseas bank accounts and had made under-the-table payments to PP politicians. Without a doubt the fortunes of the PP have plummeted still further.
The reason the socialists are back in front has a lot to do with the fall of the PP rather than any major backing for PSOE whose approval ratings are dire. Indeed where voters have switched to the left it has been to the far left Communist-led Izquierda Unida which Capdea says commands 14.2 per cent of the vote.
PSOE now has 38 per cent and the PP 34.4 per cent. At the March general election PP took 40.6 per cent of the vote, PSOE 39.5 per cent, so both are down on that level. However the IU (11.34) has seen a boost to its popularity to 14.2 per cent.
So what’s the bad news for Spanish democracy? That comes with the major rejection of main stream politicians, their parties and institutions which is not only dire news for them but also for the democratic process. If Spaniards reject politicians it leaves the door open for a modern day Franco figure to emerge promising to clean up corruption and offering stable, firm government.
Capdea reports that 46 per cent of those people questioned would not vote if an election was held now: they would abstain is the terminology. Indeed the wide ranging survey shows the Spanish peoples’ disillusionment across the board with politicians, their parties and the major institutions. The only two to receive approval ratings were the universities and the Ombudsman who battle on behalf of the people.
The overriding findings are a thumbs down for all politicians. Despite the socialists returning as the major party in Andalucía and the increase in support for the IU: 51.9 per cent of people in the region believe the PSOE – IU coalition is doing poorly as against 23.8 per cent who approve of its efforts. The PP in opposition is rated by 68.7 per cent as doing badly with only an approval rating of 14 per cent.
At a national level both the PP government of Rajoy and the opposition led by PSOE are in serious negative territory. Seventy-one per cent of Andaluces rate the PP government as bad or very bad and 72 per cent rate the PSOE opposition of Rubalcaba as bad also.
In the Bárcenas scandal Rubalcaba has called for the resignation of Rajoy because he is seemingly implicated. However the PSOE leader has steered clear of calling for a general election for one simple reason: he knows that the socialists would suffer as badly as the governing PP. Spanish voters are rejecting both major parties leaving a vacuum in the nation’s democracy and that is very bad news indeed.
BÁRCENAS CASE: It is the centre-left Spanish national newspaper El País that has made much of the running in the case revolving around Luis Bárcenas.
El País has published secret ledgers that appear to show that Bárcenas was behind a slush fund at the PP, which saw thousands of euros paid out over a number of years to high-ranking members of the party, including Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. In addition as part of the investigation into Bárcenas’ role in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scandal it has emerged the former PP treasurer had up to 22 million euros deposited in a Swiss bank account.
The PP insisted it broke off relations with its former treasurer in 2009 but it’s alleged Bárcenas received preferential treatment from the party until this January with an office for his documents at the party’s Madrid headquarters plus secretarial support all paid for by the PP. He was also being paid a monthly stipend by PP till the end of 2012. If that wasn’t enough the party paid Bárcenas’ social security payments a decision, says El País that could only have been granted with the blessing of the prime minister and PP leader, Mariano Rajoy.
(The above article was published in the London Progressive Journal on February 22 2013).