On Spain’s November 10th General Election, by Pablo Ouziel, Department of Political Science and Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria

Listen to the interview with Pablo Ouziel and Chris Cook from Gorilla Radio.

As Spain’s citizenry prepares to head to the polls on November 10th – for the second general election celebrated in 2019 and the fourth in less than four years –, according to numerous polls, Pedro Sanchez from the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) (centre-left) is expected to win but will need to pact with others in order to govern. The polls also suggest that Pablo Casado from the Partido Popular (PP) (centre-right) will come in second and Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos (right-wing populist) will lose votes paving the way for Santiago Abascal from VOX (far-right) to come in third. This rise of the far-right in Spain is happening at a time in which Pablo Iglesias’ populist left Podemos is expected to lose votes due to the debut in the country’s representative arena of yet another populist-left political project. Founded by Iñigo Errejón, co-founder of Podemos, Mas País is heading to the polls with 75% of its candidates having abandoned Podemos to join the new party. Errejón’s option seems to present the country’s establishment with a less threatening left populism than that spearheaded by Iglesias. It could well be the case that Mas País, following the elections, serves as the glue that facilitates a governmental pact between PSOE and Podemos. It is important for Spain to have a stable and progressive government that can govern with a broad consensus and reverse some of the austerity that has been imposed on the population since the economic crisis of 2007. Nevertheless, it does seem possible that PSOE might opt for a coalition government with the centre-right PP. Whatever the outcome of these upcoming elections, these are challenging times for the acting government and for whomever governs following November 10th. The Supreme Court has just presented its verdict in the sentence against the 12 imprisoned Catalan separatist leaders, and the heavy sentences have sparked mass nonviolent protests and week-long riots in Catalonia. As a response, the Spanish establishment has refused to dialogue with the pro-independence Catalan government and has opted to ignore the frustrations felt by a large part of the Catalan population. This has been made apparent with the King’s speech this week, during the Princesa de Asturias Foundation prices, in which he refused to mention Catalonia while the region’s major cities where up in flames and its main communication arteries were cut by protestors. At the same time, we have seen how Sanchez, Spain’s acting president has travelled to Barcelona to praise the work of riot police while refusing to meet with Catalan president Kim Torra. With all these tensions in Catalonia, in Madrid, we are three days away from the exhumation of dictator Francisco Franco from the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). This is happening at a time in which VOX is publicly reviving latent melancholy for Franco’s dictatorship and is calling for the National security law (approved in 2015) to be applied to deal with Catalonia. These are times in which, as Chantal Mouffe (Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster) might say, the timid response to crises by those claiming to hold the centre of representative politics is not enough to stop the growth of right-wing populism in Spain. Only a few weeks ago, we heard VOX’s spokesperson in the town of EL Ejido, Juan José Bonilla say the following: “In times of reds, hunger and lice”. This is old Civil War and dictatorship language and it is important for Spanish citizens to understand what is at stake when they decided for whom they are going to vote or whether they are going to abstain.

Pablo Ouziel holds a Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the Centre for Global Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria and is a visiting professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Pablo’s research interests include public philosophy, collective presences, horizontality, nonviolence and civic democracy. By standing within the tradition of public philosophy, the core of his work is centred on excavating networks of individuals governing themselves in numerous ways that supersede our current structures of representative government.

Pablo’s forthcoming book (2019) ‘Democracy Here and Now: The exemplary case of Spain’, makes the argument that if as researchers we want to study the broad field of democratization and democracies, we need to listen to individual self-descriptions in their own vernacular languages. This he suggests is a healthy way towards understanding particular lifeways and the important lesson that he has learned through his dialogues of reciprocal elucidation within Spain’s 15M.



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