Victory to the forces of radical socialism and the smashing of post-Franco consensus capitalism!
Well, not quite. But it’s a start.
Yesterday’s general election to the Cortes General was a defining election which result was a seismic shock to the European establishment, producing an existential threat to the Spanish state itself.
For the conservative Partido Popular (PP) government, the losses, if not the outcome, were terrible. While Mariano Rajoy’s party finished in first place – presumably to the plaintive cries of Jim Murphy sobbing about how the party in first place must automatically, always be the government, regardless of parliamentary arithmetic – they lost 64 seats and suffered a 16,3 point swing against them and won fewer seats than at any election since their first.
The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the most powerful party in post-Franco Spain and the official in a time of harsh austerity, ought to have expected victory given the scale of PP losses. Instead, they stumbled to the worst defeat in their history, losing 20 seats and seeing a 6,8 point swing away from it.
With 176 deputies required for a majority in the Cortes, both the PP (123) and PSOE (90) have fallen drastically short of power.
For the PSEO in particular, it is a dramatic collapse. Against an unpopular incumbent conservative austerity regime, Perdro Sánchez should have been skipping up the Puerta de Hierro, ready to claim his presidential hat. But the social democrats turned in a risible performance, just narrowly coming in in third place in the popular vote.
This is the next chapter in an increasing pattern of social democratic parties who are perceived to be insufficiently opposed to Euroausterity being stomped on by their national electorates. This year alone, the primary social democratic party has lost seats from opposition in the Estonian (lost four of nineteen seats in the Riigikogu), Andorran (social democrat/Green bloc lost three of its six seats in the Consell General).
Greece saw the social democrats go from being the main opposition to being seventh party in the Voulí, coming behind the radical Left, some neo-Nazis, and the ruling conservatives. In new elections just nine months later, PA.SO.K contrived to come fourth, with the radical Left remaining in government, and both the neo-Nazis and pro-austerity conservatives beating them. Indeed, the collapse of the social democrats in Greece was the first major sign of the death of social democracy in Europe, and has given its name to the process (i.e. the Pasokification of Scottish Labour) of the elimination of an established social democratic party from parliamentary strength in favour of either the established or insurgent conservative party or the radical Left.
The Portuguese general election bucked the trend, with the social democrat PS coming second and taking control of the government – albeit after a major constitutional crisis involving the conservative President of the Republic – but even then, they require the votes of the radical Left to govern, effectively giving the Left a veto on the PS manifesto.
In both Hamburg and Bremen state elections in Germany, the ruling social democrats lost seats, with the radical left Linke being significant beneficiaries.
In Finland, the main social democratic party came fourth, losing eight of its 42 seats in Eduskunta, and were dropped from the coalition government; and in Denmark, the social democrats were swept from power by the conservatives.
Our own general election in May saw the same result – the Scottish electorate perceived the main social democratic party, Labour, as collaborators in austerity, and crushed them in their worst-ever result (“worst-ever” is an adjective applied to many social democrat austerity collaborators in Europe this year).
It is, therefore, a time of crisis for left-wing capitalism, which seems to have been found wanting by electors hungry for change and a move away from austerity. The coming year seems to be no kinder, with elections due in Ireland, Lithuania, German states, English councils, Scotland, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Wales, as well as Russia.
But it is more than a time of crisis for social democracy. It is an existential crisis for the Kingdom of Spain.
All parliamentary arithmetic points to either Podemos or various regional nationalists being vital to the viable governance of the state. Podemos, the insurgent Left, has been clear that it will not begin negotiations to form a government until constitutional reform has been achieved. It is in favour of an independence referendum for Catalunya – and a legal independence referendum in Catalunya will certainly pass.
The diagram of results shows the situation:
The extent of the collapse of the PP now means that a PP-C coalition – generally predicted by commentators – cannot muster a majority, and nor can a PSOE-Podemos coalition. The only bipartisan coalition which is able to command the confidence of the Cortes would be a PP-PSOE Gran Coalicion, the result of which would be the return to power of president Rajoy, and – in the next election – the complete extinction of the PSOE. A PP-C government might seek to run as a minority, but the strident anti-Euskadi tone taken by Ciudadanos would render it unlikely that such a minority administration would be able to win the votes of Euskaldunak deputies (PNV, 6 and Bildu, 2): and the PP and C opposition to Catalan democracy makes it likely that Catalan deputies (ERC-CATSI, 9 and DL, 8) would attempt to defenestrate such a government at the first opportunity. Popular Unity might be expected to use their 2 seats to support a PSOE-led government only if it faces replacement by a PP-led administration. The Canarian Coalition (it is an insular, not an avian reference) has but one seat and is likely in any event to support the PP.
In an odd reflection of the situation in Scotland, Catalans chose overwhelmingly to return a majority of pro-independence deputies to the Cortes yesterday where previously they were content to restrict their pro-independence parties to the Parlament de Catalunya and behave themselves in elections to the Cortes, sending grown-up, proper Spanish party deputies there. No longer.
The Senado retains its PP majority and is thus the last bastion of the Spanish state. The upper house has the power to veto or amend legislation from the Congreso. Significantly, organic legislation, which includes regional devolution, requires an absolute majority in both chambers, and further, constitutional amendments require a supermajority of 60% of members of both houses. While the Congreso can force constitutional legislation through the Senado if an absolute majority of the latter and a supermajority of the former is in place, this does not pertain to the current membership. Thus, the Senado has effectively a veto on constitutional and devolutional reform.
Spain is, therefore, heading inexorably to an insoluble constitutional crisis: it is likely to have a government which enjoys the confidence of deputies solely inasmuch as it remains committed to constitutional reform and an independence referendum for Catalunya, whilst the upper house has a veto on any such reform.
It is likely that King Philip will consider than the PP has won the election as it came first, and will ask Rajoy to form a government. It is equally likely that this government will fall at the first hurdle (Spain uses a similar system to Scotland to elects its head of government in that s/he must first win a vote of confidence in Parliament before the head of State will appoint them) and that King Philip will then ask Sánchez to make an attempt. Should Sánchez follow Rajoy in failing to gain the support of the Congreso as president, then the king, constitutionally, has no choice other than to call for fresh elections within two months.
This will take us up until March, 2016. Should a similar result be produced, it may take another month or so of negotiations to form a coalition and select a president. So Spain will be without a government for at least the first third of 2016. This is dangerous for David Cameron’s renegotiations with the European Union: agreement will have to be unanimous to reform the Treaties, and with no functioning Spanish government, it raises the possibility that discussions will not even take place until April.
More Scottish interest comes through the Catalan process. Should Spain fracture – and Catalans are in favour of independence – and Catalunya becomes an independent state, the European Union, already facing the loss of the United Kingdom, is unlikely to tolerate the loss of one of its wealthiest, most productive regions. Catalunya – wealthier than Spain – will be fast-tracked into the EU, and Spain, under fiscal and political pressure from Brussels, will not veto their continued membership. This shoots one of the Unionist foxes ahead of 2021.
Scotland has shown Catalunya how to go about the independence process, and Catalunya is seizing the baton and sprinting ahead of us. The pieces are falling into place: Catalan membership and reaccession to the EU gives us the precedent to point to; and British withdrawal from the European Union as a result of not being able to renegotiate its concessions is becoming ever more likely.
In talking about the collapse of social democratic parties throughout Europe, one must pity one above all others: Scottish Labour, the party who committed suicide to save their Union, and is watching as it’s being dismantled by all sides. Independence is coming, and Scottish Labour is dying.
I wrote the above article before the quite incredible TNS poll was released. It's an earth shattering poll for the Yoons, particularly for Scottish Labour.
The numbers are thus:
SNP 60% (+10 points on 2011)
SNP 60% (+10 points on 2011)
Scottish Labour 19% (-13)
Conservative 15% (-1)
Liberals 3% (-5)
Rise 0% (=)
SNP 50% (+6)
Scottish Labour 19% (-7)
Conservative 14% (+2)
Green 10% (+6)
Liberals 5% (+5)
Ukip 2% (+1)
Rise 0% (=)
These are stratospheric figures for the Nationals, which suggest a second - increased majority nine years after first taking office.
Kezia Dugdale, already under pressure as "leader" after a series of catastrophic blunders and an admission she isn't up to the job, is dragging what's left of her party into oblivion. There are now genuine concerns over the future of Scottish Labour as an independent Unionist party.
And Rise, well, perhaps it should change its name to Risible. It has yet to breach the 0% mark in any opinion poll, and with the SWP-linked clique, racked by internal strife and controversy over the relationships between senior figures, still completely unknown to the general public, it doesn't look likely it'll get above 0% in the election itself. With just four full months of campaigning left, they don't have a single candidate in place. (Officially, of course. Everyone knows that they have already selected who is topping each List - although it now appears that their non-existent poll rating, now behind Squalidarity, proves the belief that the organisation is a triumph of the hope of enthusiasm over experience, and that hijacking the SSP and topping the List will not be the guaranteed ticket to Parliament that some people thought).
One of the few things in Scotland as unpopular than Scottish Labour is the idea of leaving the European Union: just 19% of Scots will vote to leave. Scotland being dragged out of the European Union against her will is a material change in the internal settlement, and will lead to another independence referendum in which the EU fox will have been shot - whether that is by the British or the Catalans.
The clouds are gathering for the Yoons. From Andalucia to Alva Street, everything is turning against them.