An overview on the parties and political situation before the December 20th elections in Spain.
Many times humour pulls from stereotypes; it is generally unfair, but may be thought-provoking and amusing if consumed in moderation. There is a well-known joke that describes purgatory as being where the chefs are English, the bureaucrats are French, the police are German, and it is all organized by the Italians. Right, well then political purgatory could be a conservative party with the social sensibilities of the British Conservative Party, a social democracy as incorruptible and coherent as Italian socialism, liberalism as independent from financial capital as that of Germany, and popularism as willing to side with the left as that of France.
Sadly, this 'purgatory' is developing in Spain before the December 20th elections, the most significant since 1977, where there is little doubt that the Spanish Parliament resulting from 20-D will be responsible for fundamentally changing the Constitution.
In 2011, the 15-M demonstrations astonished the world. In 2014 we saw a shake-up in the party system, and for various months it seemed as though the Podemos party would win a majority that would break Spain free from the Brussels Accord: the neo-liberal economic policy framework shared by conservatives, social-democrats, and liberals. Nevertheless, in 2015 we face the elections with three main parties. In broad terms, the People's Party (PP), the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos largely share the same neo-liberal economic policies and pro-NATO foreign policy. Lagging a step behind is Podemos, which is attempting to demonstrate that its movement will not put the basis of the political regime in danger: the Monarchy, the 'free' market, and a foreign policy that is subordinate to the interests of the United States. Izquierda Unida (IU) and other outlying leftists have once again been left alone in their questioning of the 1978 regime.
Why hasn't the mobilisation movement that so shocked the world been taken advantage of? Possibly because electoral manoeuvring has taken precedence. First IU, then Podemos, failed to give priority to backing the social movement, to spreading and organizing it, and to raising social consciousness. In the case of Podemos, all the errors IU was punished for were repeated in record time, especially excessive institutionalism, while lacking nearly all of its virtues. This last year, a frenzied search for the centrist votes that largely abstained in the 2014 European elections has been kicked off, with many of the errors committed by PSOE also being repeated.
This has been the key electoral strategy for the four main parties: the fight for the centrist vote. Following the 2014 elections, the four parties designed different strategies with the same goal: discredited by three years of governance and right-wing lean, PP attempted to awaken the fear vote by painting Podemos as the 'red devil' they needed; PSOE opted for a platform based on medium-term organisational consolidation and, given the 'overbooking' to the left, an even greater veer to the right; and Podemos designed the brilliant yet difficult to execute strategy of attempting to reorganise itself as a party at the 'centre of the board', breaking with the leftist past of the majority of its leaders and signing on figures endorsed for their decades of work servicing the dominant classes. Orphaned after the disappearance of Adolfo Suarez's CDS (Democratic and Social Centre) party, the centre's political representation could have been championed by UPyD (Union, Progress and Democracy), but in the end the great economic powers that be preferred to back Ciudadanos; a political party born from the think tank of Spanish banks.
Nevertheless, these elections will not be a lost opportunity if the left learns from its errors and we can begin a process of broad overhaul. A good sign comes in the form of the Unidad Popular (UP) candidates backed by IU, which stand out due to the prominence of activists and trade unionists. In recent months, IU has shed the weight of some of its greatest internal contradictions, and with respect to the elections, UP-IU counts on the backing of an ample swath to the left which PSOE and Podemos abandoned without looking back. A healthy UP-IU turnout will be essential for the voice of workers to be heard in an election as significant as that being held on December 20th.