Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Podemos: The Tidal Wave (that was)

Following the 2011 anti-austerity protests known as the 15-M (Wiki), Podemos appeared three years later as a party created by a professor of politics who wanted to address the rampant corruption evident at that time in Spain. While we were distracted by his silly hairdo, Pablo Iglesias managed something that his eventual ally the Izquierda Unida had never achieved in forty years – and that was to bring far-left politics to the front of Spanish life. The other more traditional parties were understandably aghast, and with the help of the media have been fighting hard ever since to remove this populist leader and his Marxist dogma from society.
It looks like, with some bad calls on Iglesias’ part - some party defections (we remember the Life of Brian Judean Liberation Front scene), together with an ill-judged move with his family to a fancy house in a Madrid suburb followed by an untimely three-month baby-leave, that the party is currently in a calamitous free-fall.
The largest problem is, of course, the issue of the decomposition of the party as splinter-groups such as Compromís, En Marea, En Comú, and even allies like the Izquierda Unida and Equo, along with the party co-founder Iñigo Errejón, not only move away, but sometimes put themselves in political opposition to Podemos. El Independiente looks at this here, The Guardian features the issue here. 
Pedro Sánchez is as almost as worried as the still-absent formula-mixing Pablo Iglesias about the party’s precipitate fall  – with Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos promising that his ‘centrist’ party will not pact post-election with the PSOE.
The worry is that the PSOE, faced with the tres amigos of the Right, need Podemos’ support following the April elections.  Unidos Podemos could fall in deputies from its current 71 to something nearer 39, says a poll (IU and Podemos revalidated their union this Wednesday).
Spain has in effect returned to a new left-right divide as El Mundo notes here – but will the spirit of the 15-M still find representation in future parliaments. Let’s hope so.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Mojácar Local Elections: The Candidates

While we foreign residents can't vote in national or regional elections in Spain, we can at least in the local ones. Or, at least, some of us can. To vote, one needs to be from the EU (or from a select number of other countries with bilateral agreements with Spain), over 18 and to have the paperwork in order. In Mojácar, that might add up to around 700 or 800 votes out of perhaps a total of 3,000.
No one knows the details for sure, except of course the candidate for the Partido Popular and current mayoress of Mojácar Rosmari Cano. The other parties will not see the polling list until two weeks before the elections on May 26th. Advantage to the mayoress...
The parties that will present a candidature are the PSOE, the PP, the C's (Ciudadanos) and Izquierda Unida - perhaps including the troops from Adelante Andalucía or Unidos Podemos (who never seem to have the same name twice). There's some small chance that the Vox will rear its head (a possible candidate is an aggrieved ex-councillor from the PP), and maybe - who knows - a local candidature as well.
Jessica Simpson from Somos Mojácar is now running as an independent with the PSOE, following Manual Zamora in the Nº2 spot. The IU will be led by Carlos Rodríguez (he of the Bar Pública in the village). Ciudadanos Mojácar is Diego Gea from the Rincón de Diego on the playa and the PP repeats with Rosa María Cano ('Rosmari').  Rosmari confirms Maria Luisa and Lucas Mayo on her list, while for the moment it is unclear whether Emmanuel Agüero will return.

A General Election for April 28th

President Pedro Sánchez has called for a General Election on April 28th. Who could win the vote? - The leading party is the PSOE, but a three-way alliance between the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox (a condition known in certain circles as 'el trifachito'), would be stronger. What would happen in Catalonia following a right-wing government in Madrid? How will this affect the European, regional and local elections that follow only one month later (May 26th)? Finally, how will this all affect the Brits living in Spain (recently orphaned by Brexit)?

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Expats and Immigrants

There are several expat groups on Facebook, by which I mean, they call themselves that. 'Expats in Spain' might be one. Seek them out, they can have useful posts sometimes.
I am in no doubt that these sites, with many others, receive critical messages every now and again from a recently arrived to Spain Brit who seeks to chastise them by erroneously saying in a pious tone: 'we are immigrants, not expats'.
Expats (expatriates, having left the patria, the home-land, rather than ex-patriots, having, er, seen the light) are simply that, a handy self-inflicted name for us Brits and other nationalities who want to join in, who live (in this case) in Spain. We like to sententiously claim that we will learn the language, and we make some small effort to this end. But, it's hard for Brits to learn a foreign language, especially if we are not in our first flush of youth, and, especially too, if we live in an English-speaking gated community while watching satellite TV and reading worthless expat newspapers.
How many of us expats know the first thing about our host nation's culture, history and cuisine? Who do we support in an international sports event between 'our' country and theirs?
We expats don't particularly want Spanish nationalization (or, we didn't until Brexit came along) and, nota bene, we are mostly worried about whether we could still keep our British passport with dual nationality.
Not a major concern for an immigrant.
An immigrant is someone who wants to become a national. He will learn the language, and insist that his children speak it fluently.  He will, on balance, be younger than an expat, with his life ahead of him. He will be looking for work. Perhaps some of the Brits could fall into this category, but certainly not the ones you find on Facebook.
I have an American friend of Italian descent. His parents came over from Calabria. He recalls that they would say to him over the dinner table in broken English 'you in America now, you speak American'. I know of a young fellow here who lives in rural Spain, whose father is British and whose mother is Spanish. He is said to speak two languages, learnt from his parents: Spanish and broken Spanish.
Most immigrants are known more fully as 'Economic Immigrants'. They move to a wealthier country to earn more and live better. While expats also move elsewhere to live better, they don't do it for monetary reasons, and they are certainly never referred to as 'Economic Expats'.
Howsoever, until the wretched British Government manages to commit national hara-kiri in late March this year, I shall continue to justifiably call myself (with your permission) 'a European'.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Strategic Voting?

One remembers the old days, where two behemoths stood face to face, as the votes were counted, and one took the majority and formed Government while the other led the Opposition. In Spain, this was the case since Democracy returned following Franco’s death (we will ignore the small regional parties, which in any event generally identified themselves with one side or the other).
Now, we have five major parties instead of two: the (fragmented) far-left of the Izquierda Unida (itself a coalition of parties) together with Podemos and its break-off assemblies; the PSOE in the centre-left; the Ciudadanos in the centre-right, the Partido Popular (which traditionally has occupied the centre-right) and the far-right Vox (described this week by a Ciudadanos leader as ‘the Populist Vox’).
This spread of parties inevitably means that pacts and coalitions must be made. In Andalucía, the PP and the C’s are currently ruling with Vox as the unseen third partner. Indeed, this arrangement, more or less and according to how the votes fall, has been embraced by the PP which has now given up its ‘party-most-voted should rule’ claim (in Andalucía, that would have been Susana Díaz’ PSOE-A anyway).  The regional PP leaders now accept that a pact ‘a la andaluza’ with C’s and Vox could be built in other regions of the country. Including the Region of Madrid (here). Indeed, elections these days, says, are now twofold – first comes the vote (open to all) and then comes the pact. But what, exactly, are the details? What was it that we voted for? The French system of two rounds starts to make more sense.
We shall start to see ‘strategic voting’ from the public in Spain in the coming months and years...

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Britons in Mojácar, Britons in Spain

The latest figures for Britons registered  on the padrón are now available from the statistics people, over at the INE. 
While there are a lot of Brits in Mojácar, nationally, our numbers have fallen. Here's a few points:
In Mojácar, it appears that there are 2,545 'Europeans' on the padrón (in all, 2,906 foreigners). These are broken down to 1,536 Britons, 124 Germans, 232 Romanians and 167 French (sorry Richard, it doesn't list Ireland), and 3,395 Spaniards. Go here and then to Almería 4.3. Indeed, the British population (at least, those who are entered on the padrón) make up 24,4% of the population of Sin City. As to how many have registered to vote next May 26th, that's still a closely guarded secret in the Town Hall.
Go here for population results across Spain (listed again by nationality). According to these statistics from the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Britons resident in Spain have fallen from 240,934 to 223,251. – being a drop of 7.3%. Perhaps the threat of the Brexit is taking its toll. 

Friday, 1 February 2019

Early Pre-campaigning in Almería's Local Elections

After a long agony of wondering if we Brits would have the vote in the 2019 local elections, it turned out, rather at the last moment,  that we could (as long as we were registered on the polling list, available at the town hall, with the time-limit now over).
We could once again vote and even run for office.
For a while there, it looked like we could also vote in the European elections, with a choice of a number of parties who would - as happens in Europe with national parties running an international race - do nothing whatsoever for the foreign residents. Although now it seems that we can't (unless the UK stays in the EU, in which case, we can again). Not that it makes much difference beyond the experience.
In Almeria, according to a local newspaper, there are 14,000 Brits, who will be able, once again, to join their Spanish neighbours, and indeed their other EU neighbours, in both voting and - if the fancy takes them - in running for office locally. Not many of the foreign residents will vote (maybe even less this time, as there seems to be a lack of interest in presenting candidates with a slight accent, at least in Mojácar). Other (non-EU) nationalities can vote too (but not run - they are a sort of Second Class Foreigner 'B') - being those folk from Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Ecuador, Island, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and of course Trinidad and Tobago.
In a small number of towns, there are a remarkable number of us (Almería, when it comes to foreign Europeans, appears to favour the British). Arboleas has 2,538 Brits out of the entire population of 4,586. Indeed, the percentage is high in several municipalities - Vera, Turre, Vélez-Rubio, Vélez-Blanco, Mojácar, Huércal-Overa, Cuevas del Almanzora, Cantoria, Bédar, Albox and Partaloa.
Other towns with lots of foreigners who certainly can't vote (like the Moroccans and the Central Africans) are over there on the other side of the province, like El Ejido and so on - hotbeds for the far-right Vox party.
Do the town halls take any notice of their foreign residents? They do if there are foreign-born councillors in the ayuntamiento.
Otherwise, why bother?
In reality, politics is about speaking for the people. I suppose, 'speaking for your supporters', but, in the end, speaking for your community. Good, hey? In all the years I've been following politics in Mojácar (we foreign Europeans only got the municipal vote in 1999), only one party leader, Ángel Medina from Ciudadanos Europeos, ever offered public meetings, or workshops. The eight years he was active, he would have a public meeting every couple of months (with me as translator and Nº 2 candidate). No other party, whether the PP of Rosmari, the PSOE or any other formation, whether representing a national or local party, has ever had a single non-election meeting ever. Which begs the question - who do they think they are representing... their families, cousins, envelope-holders, land-owners?
So, in Mojácar at least (and remembering that we had eleven choices back in 2003) - what alternatives are there this time? So far declared, we have the Ciudadanos Mojácar as a new party, plus the Partido Popular (Rosmari's group), the PSOE and probably the Izquierda Unida. Will Somos Mojácar or something similar - an independent multinational group - be on offer? We hope so.