The banners are out: the first of the 3 elections this year that we have around here for Andalusian parliamentary election will be held on Sunday 22 March 2015, to elect the 10th Parliament of Andalusia. At stake will be the 109 seats to the Parliament, also determining the President of the Regional Government of Andalusia. Later this year we will have local elections and towards the end of the year for the Spanish parliament.
While the legislature theoretically lasted until 2016, tension rising within the coalition government between PSOE and IU paved the way for a snap election to be held sometime during 2015. The PSOE has been in power in Andalusia since the community’s inception in 1982, being the only autonomous community in Spain that, after 33 years of uninterrupted rule, has not seen a single change in government.
It also will be a test case for the popularity of the new party Podemus (‘we can’). The eruption of the newcomers over the past year is part of a tectonic shift stemming from the seven-year slump that destroyed more than 3m jobs and threatens to unseat the political and economic elite that emerged to control Spain after the death of Franco 40 years ago. If the rupture gives its leader Iglesias a chance to implement his programme, the shock waves will be felt far beyond the Iberian peninsula. At the centre of the Podemos’s platform is a plan to force a restructuring of €1 trillion of government debt in what would be the biggest sovereign reorganisation in history.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party and his main parliamentary opposition, the Socialists, have governed Spain since 1982, transforming an isolated economy that had lagged behind most of Europe under Franco. Spain’s benchmark stock index, the Ibex-35, rose 500pc between 1988 and its 2007 peak, almost double the gains on the FTSE 100.
Since 2008, that model has unravelled, with many Spaniards disillusioned with the main parties and the banks. Iglesias captured that feeling with a single expression: “the caste”. For his supporters, the caste is a corrupt elite that kept most of the gains from the boom years and left the people to shoulder the cost of the crisis. But with Spain’s economy growing at the fastest pace since the start of the crisis in the fourth quarter, Rajoy levels the same charge against Podemos, warning Spaniards that a radical change in policy risks derailing the recovery. He could point to Greece, where Iglesias’s ally Tsipras swept to power in January promising voters a similar combination of debt write-downs and public spending, only to run into the buffers of European realpolitik.
I am quite happy that the Greeks had their election before the Spanishc so that the latter now can see what the impact can be of a populist attitude against strong, Merkel/Schäuble-like opponents.