Swinging Politics

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Aficionados of Spanish history will likely know that the fascists won the country’s civil war in the 1930s. Socialists took over in the 1980s and 90s, from 2004 until 2011, and again in 2018 when Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party formed a leftist coalition government. Now local and upcoming general elections are testing whether or not the leftist vision for Spain will be able to retain its grip on power.

Spanish voters are slated to elect more than 8,000 local officials in 12 regional governments on May 28. In December, a general election is expected to choose a new parliament and, potentially, a new prime minister.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has stirred controversy. In a symbolic gesture after assuming power by ousting conservative People’s Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal, he removed the body of the late Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, from its mausoleum, pardoned pro-independence leaders in Catalonia who stoked civil unrest in 2019, and abolished unfair laws that officials used to jail Catalan leaders, reported the Courthouse News. His anti-sexual assault bill has had the unintended consequence of making it easier for some convicted abusers to win their freedom on appeal, wrote World Politics Review.

These and other issues have polarized debate in Spain, where vitriol has taken hold of politics.

“Parliamentary debates offer little more than the lamentable spectacle of a slanging match,” explained the Real Instituto Elcano, a think tank in Madrid. “The lack of agreement on even basic issues of state is epitomized by the four-year partisan stalemate over new appointments to the General Council of the Judiciary, which is responsible for appointing judges and ensuring the judiciary’s independence.”

At present, polls show the Socialists are likely to defeat their conservative challengers in a parliamentary election, Reuters wrote, by 29.1 percent against 27.2 percent.

The outcome of local elections might affect those results, however. The prime minister made sure, for example, to pass a housing bill last week to address sky-rocketing living costs and a housing crisis, Agence France-Presse reported. The law would decouple rent increases from other consumer costs, permanently capping hikes at three percent next year and a similar maximum rate in 2025.

The leftist coalition’s tax on wealth is also an important issue that could affect local elections, especially in Madrid where many of the country’s most affluent people live. The 3.5 percent tax on wealth of more than $4.1 million is slated to become permanent after 2024, explained Reuters, giving a new parliament a chance to scuttle the tax if popular sentiment or adverse economic consequences arise.

Combatants in the Spanish Civil War would be happy to see these disagreements come down to the ballot box.

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