Now we have left the EU UK citizens can no longer vote in Spain. However, only three out of the potential 50 UK citizens qualified to vote in the Municipal and European elections in my area of southern Spain, actually voted last time.

It has always been a bone of contention for me that UK citizens, resident in Spain, weren´t able to vote in the General Elections but, it seems, I am in a minority. Many non-Spanish speaking residents seem to be totally removed or alienated, or both, from Spanish politics.

As many non-Spanish speakers do not have access to Spanish television and the national, regional and local news, do not have access to information about what is happening on the Spanish political scene; what laws are being discussed or passed; what moves are being made to change infrastructures and culture; or news of political movements which may affect the areas where readers of this blog live. This can only add to the sensation of living in a goldfish bowl with a glass barrier between you and the society you live in.

Readers probably know that the body of dictator Franco was ceremoniously removed from the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos), where it had laid in a very grand marble mausoleum for over 40 years, to be reburied in a public cemetery. However, less well known is the fact that the Franco Foundation, which protects and exalts Franco´s memory, is publicly funded; that lands and houses confiscated from his political opponents remain in the hands of the family Franco; or that Billy el Niño, state torturer under Franco, and many other leading figures of the regime, continue to enjoy pensions and medals in recognition of their “ public service”.

Moreover, thousands of Franco´s opponents are buried in mass unmarked graves, including in the Valle of the Caidos, which they were forced to build; that countless babies were stolen from “politically unsuitable” mothers and given up for adoption to supporters of the regime; and an endless etcetera of political secrets suppressed or hidden from the national memory by the “transition” (a period of forgetting after the death of Franco) purportedly designed to prevent a new civil war.*

Well, all this is about to change, principally due to the “We Can” (Podemos) party.
Also on the agenda for change, as the coalition government of the Socialists (PSOE) and Podemos get to grips with power, is a bill legalizing euthanasia; changes to employment laws to improve conditions and workers´ rights; creating a public bank; and outlawing the exaltation of the dictatorship and withdrawing medals, pensions and public funds from those who do: and repealing the gagging law (Ley Mordaza), widely criticized by Europe and which limits human rights and rights to protest in Spain.

The revolution in Spanish politics began in May 2011 when thousands of young people converged on the centre of Madrid, converting one of the main squares into a massive protest campsite. The city centre was paralyzed for nearly a month by a protest organized via the internet and with an estimated participation of between 80,000 and 125,000 young people  claiming the Government “did not represent” them. The protest became known as 15M (March 15).

Thousands of young people simply turned up, organized food, shelter, medical attention, and basic hygiene, camped out and protested. There were no leaders, there was no violence…..just indignation at the social injustices they perceived in society but in particular the massive repossession of homes, high youth unemployment,  the bank bailout and the failure of successive governments to introduce real change to relieve widespread poverty and large scale corruption on the political scene.

Four years later, and against all prognostics, Podemos won five seats in the European elections of 2014 logging 1.2 million votes.

The next year groups forming part of 15M, including Podemos, gained enough seats in the municipal elections to form “Citizen Coalitions,” which governed in many large cities including Barcelona and Valencia and in December 2015 they won 69 seats in Congress, the equivalent of the UK House of Commons.

Podemos was vilified, criticized and the emerging leaders, crucified for their appearance. They wore jeans and carried backpacks and the leader, Pablo Iglesias had a ponytail. They were rash, impetuous and voluble and they broke every unspoken rule of political behaviour and rhetoric.

Although Podemos were the third political force after the 2016 General Elections Pedro Sanchez bowed to pressure from his party and made a pact with the new centre-right party, Ciudadanos, giving Podemos the cold shoulder. However, he failed to reach the 175 majority in Congress necessary to form a government.

The Conservative Partido Popular did form a government which fell to a censor vote in 2018 instigated by the PSOE and supported by Podemos, following a judicial decision (in the Gurtel case) finding widespread and institutional corruption in the PP.

The Socialists formed a caretaker government, which lasted nearly a year and ended in two general elections in the same year, in which no party gained an outright majority and effectively brought an end to two party politics in Spain. It also saw the virtual disappearance of Ciudadanos as a political force and the emergency of the extreme right wing Vox party.
When the first General Election gave Sanchez a clear win but an insufficient majority he negotiated with but could not agree to the radical demands of Podemos. The second General Elections in a year were called.

Once again he failed to gain the majority he needed but the country had clearly voted for coalition politics and within 24 hours of the result he announced a pact with Podemos.

The political left in Spain are notorious for not agreeing. They haven´t agreed since the Civil War when they spent almost as much time fighting each other as Franco, so it was never going to be easy. Moreover the vilified Communist party, which never had a hope of gaining any power in Spain in the foreseeable future, had joined forces with Podemos making a coalition with the Socialists even more controversial.

But the country breathed a sigh of relief, partly due to voter fatigue, and partly because, for many,  a coalition between the three right wing parties, which included the extreme right wing, Vox, was an unthinkable step backwards.

Podemos has added many members of its own party and the 15M movement to its list of critics by entering into this coalition government and for those who think they have too much influence in the new Government there is another faction who thinks quite the opposite.
However, for better for worse, Spain is facing a period of real and radical change which will affect all of us in one way or another so this may be a good moment to begin to get to grips the new politics of Spain.

*Despite the invisible gags of the Transition there are countless books which explore the legacies of the state coup which uprooted the democratically elected republican Government and plunged Spain into civil war. Apart from histories there are some beautifully crafted and intriguing novels by such authors as Almudena Grandes and/or  Carlos Ruiz Zafon  which illuminate the pre and post-Civil war periods. A future blog will be dedicated to these authors and the English translations available for purchase on the internet ).

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    1. Diana Jane Autor del artículo

      Apparently there is an agreement between Spain and the UK that UK residents can vote in municipals, however, the municipals are four years off and much can change in that time. All agreements with Spain are recipricol so it all rather depends on Boris, unfortunately.But as of now we can vote in the municipals. Sorry if th info was misleading and thank you for reading my blog. best wishes Diana

    2. Diana Jane Autor del artículo

      Apparently there are agreements between Spain and the UK which permit UK citizens with a padron and are residents to vote in the municipals. However, Sanchez has made it clear all agreements depend on reciprocity. The municpals are four years off so it rather depends what Boris does. As of now we can vote. Sorry if the info was misleading and thank you for reading my blog. best wishes Diana


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