The Day in Spain #10




Seven wildfires that pose risk to population rage in Galicia (NW Spain)

The Galician government has declared that seven wildfires that pose risk to human population are active in the region. The fires have already affected an area of over 4,000 hectares (30 sqm) in the last three days, according to regional authorities.

All sources, including the regional governing party PP (right, conservative), point to arson.


Spain is a very dry country, which makes it specially prone to wildfires. However, it’s the mostly wet Northwestern region of Galicia that is more affected yearly. Vegetation is more dense there while economic strains and rugged terrain make roads and infrastructure typically less developed than in other regions of the country.

Wildfires in Spain are mostly intentional. In spite of that, the Government (PP) passed a law in 2015 that allows economic activities to take place on burned land just a month after the fire. Before that law was passed, there was a 30 years waiting period.

Even before, fires were more common in Galicia than the rest of the country. It’s a predominantly rural area, with economic activities such as agriculture and cattle breeding and wood industry. Intentional wildfires are suspected to be related in one way or the other to these activities.


Political talk:

PP’s board to vote C’s conditions

The governing party’s National Executive Board, which has almost 100 members, will vote on Ciudadanos (centre-right, liberal) “six conditions” on Wednesday next week. If the conditions are approved, PP (right, conservative) will open negotiations with Ciudadanos  to get the latter’s support for Rajoy’s re-election. Ciudadanos support, however, is not enough to elect Rajoy, as PSOE’s (centre-left, social-democrat) votes are still needed.

Some of the members of the National Executive Board have already said they will support C’s proposal. Among them are Cristina Cifuentes (Madrid region PM) and Pablo Casado (Vice-secretary of Communication). The most controversial vote will be from Senator and former Valencia mayor Rita Barberá. One of C’s conditions is the end of Parliamentary immunity in cases of corruption, which would most likely end up with Barberá indicted after she has been singled out as a leading member of a money laundering racket organised by the party in Valencia.


PP is not usually a great example of internal democracy. That’s why the fact that Mariano Rajoy summoned the National Executive Board, and only in a week, has been widely seen as a time-winning strategy and a way to put pressure on PSOE, who now hold the key to government.

The document’s conditions are strongly expected to be approved by the board. The outspoken Casado and Cifuentes haven’t surprised anyone. Barberá’s vote is more a question of fascination, as she has been quite challenging about her not being indicted in the corruption case that has swept through the ranks of the Valencian branch of the party (she’s a Senator, and thus immune).

Francesc Homs (PDC) says he expects a third round of elections

Francesc Homs, spokesman of PDC (right, liberal, Catalan independentist) in the Parliament, said that he expects a third round of elections would be held. Homs said that PSOE’s abstention (even of some MPs), which is necessary for Rajoy to be re-elected, would be political suicide for the socialists. He also said that there’s a possible alternative government, led by PSOE and supported by Podemos (left, anti-austerity), his party and ERC (centre-left, social-democrat, Catalan independentist).


PSOE’s abstention is the key to Rajoy’s second term in office. If the socialists resist the pressure from PP and vote ‘No’ to the PM’s re-election, a third round of elections would be triggered after about 4 months.

PSOE is in a very uncomfortable position here. While the socialists saved a match ball in the elections, when they obtained better results than Podemos, the party is now presented with two very bitter options.

The first one would be allowing a Rajoy-led government to be formed with Ciudadanos support. The abstention of the 85 socialist MPs would lead to this scenario. However, letting Rajoy govern, even by just abstaining, would be very difficult to explain to left wing voters who would be easy prey to Podemos, who could portray itself as the only lprogressive option.

The second option would be to vote against Rajoy’s re-election, which would lead the country to a third round of election. PSOE would then be perceived as the party responsible for what is a very unpopular outcome.

The alternative government pointed at by Homs is highly unlikely. It would involve a PSOE-led government with the support of Podemos and at least some of the Basque and Catalan nationalists. This would be even more unpopular with the majority of PSOE’s voters,  as it would necessarily involve the celebration of an independence referendum in Catalonia.

It’s important to understand that PSOE has a double nature. While most of its voters in large cities are progressive, its rural base is conservative in many issues, and particularly sensitive to anything related to increased autonomy for Catalonia or ETA inmates. This division can be largely appreciated in the different discourses held by the Socialist PMs in Andalusia (Susana Díaz, conservative) and Valencia (Ximo Puig, progressive). This division is being played upon by all its political opponents.

PNV says PP’s negotiation with Ciudadanos reinforces its already categorical ‘No’ vote

PNV’s (right, conservative, Basque nationalist) spokesman in the Parliament, Aitor Esteban, said that his party’s opposition to Rajoy is “categorical”. He also added that PP’s approach to Ciudadanos reinforces it “even more”.


Aitor Esteban is referring to the possibility of a PP government, supported by the right wing Basque and Catalan nationalists, with PSOE’s and Ciudadanos’ abstentions. While this is a very unlikely outcome, it has been voiced at some point by PSOE’s members (although with Ciudadanos support and without PSOE’s abstention).

Spanish parties can be grouped in terms of their socio-economic political views (in the classical axis left-right), but they can also be divided according to their views of the State model. That way:

  • PP and Ciudadanos are markedly centralist. Particularly the latter.
  • PSOE and Podemos support Federalism, with Podemos and its regional allies also supporting the right of self-determination
  • PNV (Basque) and Coalición Canaria (Canary Islands) are nationalist, but don’t openly support independence. PNV supports self-determination right.
  • PDC and ERC (Catalan) and EH Bildu (Basque) are pro-independence.

A PP-Ciudadanos-PNV-PDC government would group together the conservatives in government, with the progressives in the opposition, regardless of their view of territorial and and national policies.

The problem with this alternative, is that Ciudadanos is articulated around the idea of a centralist state. It was founded to oppose Catalan nationalism, as PP has very low support in Catalonia. Ciudadanos opposes regional self-government at many levels, and the party can never be in the same side as PNV and PDC.

The matter of self-determination (or the right to hold a legally binding independence referendum) is also sensitive, and was the major hurdle that eliminated any chance of a PSOE-Podemos government after the elections on 20 December.

Basque elections: Otegi’s nomination, challenged

PSE (the Basque branch of PSOE) has announced that it won’t join PP, Ciudadanos and UPyD (centre-right, liberal, centralist) in their appeal against EH Bildu’s (left, anti-capitalist, Basque independentist) candidate in the regional election, Arnaldo Otegi. The Basque socialists said that they will refrain from blocking Otegi’s cadidature “to avoid helping EH Bildu’s campaign”.


Arnaldo Otegi is a very divisive figure both in the Basque Country and the rest of Spain. Hailed by many as the main leaderhead of the Basque pro-independence movement, his past relationship with ETA makes him the target of outright hate from conservative sectors of society. Otegi was freed in March 2016, after spending six years in prison for allegedly “glorifying ETA” in a rally in San Sebastian in 2010. His imprisonment is seen by many as politically motivated.

Otegi is allegedly suspended from running for office until 2021, after he was sentenced for trying to rebuild Batasuna, an illegalised pro-independence Basque organisation. However, the sentence doesn’t explain which charges he’s exactly accused of, which could render it impossible to execute.

One must understand that ETA terrorism is heavily instrumentalised in the Spanish political sphere, so the ability of Arnaldo Otegi to run for office goes beyond a legal issue. Insisting in his inability to run would increase polarization in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the Spanish establishment would be perceived as authoritarian. In Madrid, this polarization favours PP, which could use this as a tool to put pressure on PSOE towards Rajoy’s re-election.

Catalonia: PDC to decide whether to share European party with C’s

PDC’s general coordinator, Marta Pascal, said today that her group would consider whether to remain in European alliance ALDE (Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe), after Ciudadanos has been accepted as a full right member.


Although PDC and Ciudadanos share the same socio-economic ideology (liberalism), the two are bitter enemies both in Catalan and Spanish politics.

PDC, formerly known as CDC or Convergencia, is a Catalan nationalist party. While the party has traditionally held a unionist view, considering that Catalonia would be better off as a part of Spain (although looking for financial and political advantages), it has taken a pro-independence turn in the last two years. PDC member Carles Puigdemont is the current Catalan PM, where it leads the Catalan independence process with the support of ERC and CUP (left, anti-capitalist, Catalan separatist).

Ciudadanos is a relatively young party. Led by flamboyant Albert Rivera, it was founded in Catalonia in 2004, as an opposition to Catalan nationalism. Among its founders were figures from the far right and centre-left intellectuals, whose only common ground was their rejection of Catalanism. Little by little, the party has settled in the centre-right, advocating market deregulation and neo-liberalism, and taking the leap to national politics in 2015. However, its main raison-d’etre is still political centralism and opposition to any kind of self-government or self-determination. Ciudadanos is the main opposition party in Catalonia.



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