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Published on November 22nd, 2011 | by Lorna Gledhill
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="(c) A- Guerry"][/caption] After winning landslides in the regional elections, the Partido Popular have swung to victory in Spain’s most recent general elections. Ousting the established socialist workers party – the PSOE – from 7 years in office, the centre-right PP managed to win 186 of the 350 seats in the lower chamber of parliament, ten seats clear of a minority government. Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the PP, will be unable to assume power for another month due to the country’s system for handing over power. Consequently, Spain’s shift to the right has not done much to settle the financial worries about the country’s economic state. Yields on Spanish bonds are floating dangerously around the 6.5%, edging ever closer to the 7% level that economics have considered unsustainable within the EU. Faced with terrifyingly high levels of youth unemployment, peaking at around 46% recently, and economic growth slowing to zero, Rajoy has a near impossible task ahead of him. The EU has already detailed an austerity programme for member countries with crippling debt. Consequently, the media and the Spanish population have already begun to predict Rajoy’s future. Other than promise tax-cuts for small and medium size companies that make up around 90% of the firms in Spain, the new leader has failed to give a decent explanation of his policies. Instead, it is easy to imagine that spending on social support, benefit and services will be cut in order to rectify the huge deficit faced by Spain. Unfortunately this is little more than clever political manoeuvring by the PP. Rather than take a definitive stance, Rajoy has waited for the economic crisis to bury Jose Luis Zapatero’s socialist government, forcing them to reverse public spending and embrace austerity. In this cleverly fabricated context, the cuts set to be initiated by Rajoy’s new administration will pass almost undetected, seemingly too deeply rooted to be removed. It is a little generous to award Mariano Rajoy’s victory with the much-coveted ‘landslide’ description. The supporters of the Partido Popular have only edged up from 10.2 million in 2008 to 10.8 million this November, whilst PSOE have managed to plummet from 11.1 million to 6.9 million in the same period. Rather than winning an election, the PP seems to have benefited from a mass disaffection with the democratic system. The number of spoiled ballots was double that of 2008 and, considering abstentations and blank votes, 11 million of votes were discounted. Notably, more voters decided to spoil their ballots that vote for the rightwing victors, the Partido Popular. This is symptomatic of a country that, whilst teetering on economic collapse, has one of the most active and influential protest movements across the globe. Los Indignados, or the disaffected, have occupied city squares since the 15th May, 2011, calling for significant changes to political representation and transparency in Spain. Acknowledging that economic interests and obsession with the markets have eroded the possibility of true democracy, they began a three-part campaign to disrupt the recent votes: abstaining, spoiling ballots or voting for a minority party to break out of the bipartisan system. Co-ordinated from both the active city square camps and local community general meetings, los indignados have made a clear dent in the authority of the electoral system. They have also inspired Occupy tactics in other countries, taking over empty bank own properties across the country. Using them for conducting general meetings in winter and to house those who have been evicted due to mortgage defaults, they have become inspirational places. In the words of Arianna Huffington, “Just as solutions to the problems facing Europe and America are not going to be found in traditional political ways, the truth of what’s happening is not going to be found in traditional media coverage either.” The movement in Spain should shock certain established newspapers out of their disparaging coverage of anti-establishment protest. There is widespread popular disaffection with current politics, not just a group of ‘trust-funded anarchists’ who are hell-bent on trouble. In the words of Juan Martin, a 22-year old Spaniard: “We want a new society. This one doesn’t work anymore.” By next spring in Spain, unemployment benefits will start to run out. Cuts to social services will have run deeper. More young families and pensioners unable to pay off mortgages will be evicted from their homes. It is not just, as the PSOE candidate Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba seems to believe, that “they expect solutions from politics, from the system, and they haven’t gotten them.” The global question of representation and sincerity within politics runs far deeper than an issue of problem solving. Los Indignados will continue to highlight the fact that the current political system is beyond in-house reform. Instead, they don’t represent us. They don’t want to represent us. They will never represent us.

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“They don’t represent us”: Spanish Democracy and Los Indignados

(c) A- Guerry

After winning landslides in the regional elections, the Partido Popular have swung to victory in Spain’s most recent general elections. Ousting the established socialist workers party – the PSOE – from 7 years in office, the centre-right PP managed to win 186 of the 350 seats in the lower chamber of parliament, ten seats clear of a minority government.

Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the PP, will be unable to assume power for another month due to the country’s system for handing over power. Consequently, Spain’s shift to the right has not done much to settle the financial worries about the country’s economic state. Yields on Spanish bonds are floating dangerously around the 6.5%, edging ever closer to the 7% level that economics have considered unsustainable within the EU. Faced with terrifyingly high levels of youth unemployment, peaking at around 46% recently, and economic growth slowing to zero, Rajoy has a near impossible task ahead of him.

The EU has already detailed an austerity programme for member countries with crippling debt. Consequently, the media and the Spanish population have already begun to predict Rajoy’s future. Other than promise tax-cuts for small and medium size companies that make up around 90% of the firms in Spain, the new leader has failed to give a decent explanation of his policies. Instead, it is easy to imagine that spending on social support, benefit and services will be cut in order to rectify the huge deficit faced by Spain.

Unfortunately this is little more than clever political manoeuvring by the PP. Rather than take a definitive stance, Rajoy has waited for the economic crisis to bury Jose Luis Zapatero’s socialist government, forcing them to reverse public spending and embrace austerity. In this cleverly fabricated context, the cuts set to be initiated by Rajoy’s new administration will pass almost undetected, seemingly too deeply rooted to be removed.

It is a little generous to award Mariano Rajoy’s victory with the much-coveted ‘landslide’ description. The supporters of the Partido Popular have only edged up from 10.2 million in 2008 to 10.8 million this November, whilst PSOE have managed to plummet from 11.1 million to 6.9 million in the same period. Rather than winning an election, the PP seems to have benefited from a mass disaffection with the democratic system.

The number of spoiled ballots was double that of 2008 and, considering abstentations and blank votes, 11 million of votes were discounted. Notably, more voters decided to spoil their ballots that vote for the rightwing victors, the Partido Popular. This is symptomatic of a country that, whilst teetering on economic collapse, has one of the most active and influential protest movements across the globe.

Los Indignados, or the disaffected, have occupied city squares since the 15th May, 2011, calling for significant changes to political representation and transparency in Spain. Acknowledging that economic interests and obsession with the markets have eroded the possibility of true democracy, they began a three-part campaign to disrupt the recent votes: abstaining, spoiling ballots or voting for a minority party to break out of the bipartisan system. Co-ordinated from both the active city square camps and local community general meetings, los indignados have made a clear dent in the authority of the electoral system.

They have also inspired Occupy tactics in other countries, taking over empty bank own properties across the country. Using them for conducting general meetings in winter and to house those who have been evicted due to mortgage defaults, they have become inspirational places. In the words of Arianna Huffington, “Just as solutions to the problems facing Europe and America are not going to be found in traditional political ways, the truth of what’s happening is not going to be found in traditional media coverage either.” The movement in Spain should shock certain established newspapers out of their disparaging coverage of anti-establishment protest. There is widespread popular disaffection with current politics, not just a group of ‘trust-funded anarchists’ who are hell-bent on trouble. In the words of Juan Martin, a 22-year old Spaniard: “We want a new society. This one doesn’t work anymore.”

By next spring in Spain, unemployment benefits will start to run out. Cuts to social services will have run deeper. More young families and pensioners unable to pay off mortgages will be evicted from their homes. It is not just, as the PSOE candidate Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba seems to believe, that “they expect solutions from politics, from the system, and they haven’t gotten them.” The global question of representation and sincerity within politics runs far deeper than an issue of problem solving. Los Indignados will continue to highlight the fact that the current political system is beyond in-house reform. Instead, they don’t represent us. They don’t want to represent us. They will never represent us.

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