In case you missed it, Spain held municipal elections on Sunday. And, the Socialists were routed even in traditional strongholds such as Barcelona and Seville. That is big news, as it replicates the 2010 US midterm elections, and augurs poorly for world-wide Socialism. Had the results been the opposite, the US media would be heralding them as a portent of things to come at home.
The Spanish political landscape is littered with regional parties that exert an enormous influence whenever the most voted party fails to achieve an absolute majority, and hence needs to pact to govern. The two major parties roughly parallel the Democratic and Republican parties in the US. In Spain, Socialists are not afraid to call themselves what they are, or go by that name. The Socialist Party (PSOE) is the Democratic party of Spain. Republicans go by the name of the Popular Party (PP).
The weight of the electorate is on the left, with the Communist Party (the Bernie Sanders left), the United Left (IU)(the Nancy Pelosi left), the Green Party (the Al Gore left) and others tilting further to that side than the dominant Socialists (the Barack Obama left). The Spanish right tends to favor patriotism along Madrid-centric lines, free-market economics, the traditional family, etc.
In Catalunya (where Barcelona is), the predominant alternative to Socialist rule is Convergence and Union (CiU). Socialists have held the government of Barcelona since free elections have been held following the transition from Franco's decades-long rule to democracy, while CiU generally holds power in the autonomous region of Catalunya (roughly equivalent to a state in the US; think of Democrats controlling Chicago, while the Taxpayer Party controls Illinois). The big news around here is that CiU was the most voted party in the Barcelona elections for the first time in the 32 years of its voting history. CiU now controls Catalunya (the state), and will pact with another party to control Barcelona. The obvious partner would be the PP (Partido Popular), except for the fact that most Catalans hate its nationalist (Madrid-Centric) tendencies. This promises to be interesting.
In the '90's, Josemaria Aznar's center-right PP (nationalist party) swept to power in natiional elections, but not by an absolute majority. It had to pact with Jordi Pujol's CiU (Catalan party) in order to govern. It wasn't a pretty sight, as Aznar was forced to make humiliating gestures and meaningful concessions to Catalunya. He even said publicly that the Catalan language was a thing of beauty. (Language is a big issue here!)
If this sounds strange to your American ears, consider it as if New York and Boston were locked together in an East Coast country, and NY kept hogging all the tax resources and getting all the glory. Bostonians would be ticked off, right? Add centuries of bad history, and you get the idea.
The signs are ominous for Socialists in sunny Spain. They came to power in 2004 though the PP was expected to retain its absolute majority, because terrorists detonated several bombs in the Madrid subway system during morning rush hour, three days before the election. Though Spanish law prohibits demonstrations in the days prior to voting, Socialists demonstrated before gleeful "news" reporters to protest Spain's involvement in the Iraq conflict. Responsibility was hastily attributed to Al Qaeda, and Spaniards punished the PP at the polls. Evidence was quickly destroyed, and the Socialists assumed power promising to remain humble. (The complaint about Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the PP was that they involved Spain in George Bush's Iraq mess because they were drunk with pride and power.)
When the Socialists took over, Spain was enjoying unprecedented growth, a rapidly declining unemployment rate, the benefits of privatizing major segments of the economy, low interest rates and a rising profile among EU nations. What a difference seven short years make. Spain's unemployment rate is back near 20%, young people can't find work, all the traditional leftist spigots of dependence and abuse have been opened wide, and the populace is back in free-rider mode. (Demoralized Spaniards, however, did get the social blessings of gay marriage and liberalized abortion!) Americans had better get used to seeing this pattern, because it seems to recur everywhere, all the time. (As in America, Spanish lefties blame the "Republican" Aznar government for all of the country's ills.)
It's a pity, but ironic, that people are upset with austerity measures made to quiet fears in debt markets, and concessions made to the EU designed to get Spain's house in order. Angela Merkel figures (with justice) that if Germany has to pick up the tab for countries where the work ethic falls short of German standards, she has the right to demand sacrifice from the beneficiaries of EU/German largesse. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a demoniac if Noman has ever seen one, has been forced to act responsibly, and is paying the political price. Spaniards demonstrated into the elections, in contravention of Spanish law, and are still demonstrating to protest lousy government.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Spanish Socialists: Hoist by their own petard. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It's as if Barack Obama were thrown out of office by voters clamoring for hope and change.