The far right does not achieve its goal of entering the regional government
Viki Lara, Seville
Paradoxical as it may seem, the triumph in the Andalusian elections and the absolute majority of the People’s Party (PP), the traditional party of the Spanish right, will be received by LGTBI people, immigrants, feminists and parts of the working class with relief. This is because the PP will no longer need the votes of the far-right Vox to form a government. Vox had previously declared that it would not sell that vote cheaply, in fact it claimed the vice-presidency of the Junta de Andalucía (regional government of Andalusia) in exchange for that support. This is the picture that the polls were drawing until just a week before the elections – that the PP, despite winning comfortably over the social democrat Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), would need the support of Vox to govern. But the reality on the ballot box completely overturned this scenario.
PP and Vox
The PP has obtained more than double the number of seats in the local parliament, going from 26 to 58, winning for the first time in all the Andalusian provinces. Vox, which in the polls appeared to get as many as 20 seats, has in the end been left with 14. They have fallen far from their expectations in seats and from entering the Andalusian government. This happened even though they had forced as a candidate one of their most prominent figures in the state parliament, Macarena Olona, who is neither Andalusian nor a resident of Andalusia.
It is also worth noting that Macarena Olona had an irregular registration in an Andalusian town just months before the election. The electoral courts allowed this and made clear once again that the judicial system is not only a defender of the ruling classes, but more specifically of the most reactionary political ideas.
The other right-wing party, Ciudadanos (Citizens), has been the big loser in this election, going from 21 seats and being the third force in the Andalusian parliament (and also part of the Andalusian government) to 0 seats! Ciudadanos paid a price for the crisis it is going through at the state level. This relatively new political force presented itself as moderate, and a renovator of corrupt politics; but the main part of its message was anti-independence both in Catalonia, where it was created, as well as in other autonomous communities. The reality is that after the appearance of Vox, which has whipped up Spanish nationalism, the existence of Ciudadanos is put under question.
The social democratic PSOE, which historically had its main source of votes in Andalusia, has had two consecutive and clear defeats in Andalusia and continues to pay for years of corruption and clientism of their local governments. In this election it has lost three seats, when it expected at least to keep its forces. The most worrying thing for PSOE is that it has lost many votes to the PP. Therefore, PSOE has not been able to push through the message that they have done a good job managing the central government, while the PP was rewarded for its role as the dominant party in Andalusian government.
The PSOE tried to capitalise on the furlough schemes for workers whose companies stopped because of the pandemic, the creation of a Minimum Vital Income for the most disadvantaged people, and the government funded fuel discount on the price of gasoline. However, many temporary and precarious workers, who did not have contracts or whose temporary contracts were not renewed, were not put on furlough schemes, and many of them were left without any type of subsidy, including unemployment benefits. The Minimum Vital Income was very badly managed, taking months to be granted in many cases. As for the price of gasoline, it continues to grow, leaving the discount offered by the government as irrelevant, which affects especially the working and poor classes. Not to mention that the central government has been unable to touch the huge profits of the energy and oil companies, obtained from the increase in prices. It is doing nothing to stop the current inflation and has also taken a turn in its position on Sahara, supporting Morocco’s proposal to recognise only the autonomy of Western Sahara, against the desire of the Saharawis for independence or in any case a process of self-determination.
Meanwhile, the outgoing Andalusian government has been able to present itself as moderate and good manager in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite the concessions made to Vox in exchange for its parliamentary support: restrictions to the law of historical memory, the use of the term “intra-family” violence in the Andalusian institutions which tries to downplay the many victims of gender-based violence, accepting the rhetoric of the far right that tries to erase gender violence, a million euros in subsidies to anti-abortion associations while labelling feminist organizations as “spongers”, etc. In contrast to the fuss made by other PP leaders such as Ayuso (president of the Community of Madrid), who called for “freedom” to open stores, bars and restaurants when the pandemic was still killing tens or even more than one hundred people each day during the height of the pandemic, the Andalusian government (in the meetings between the central and regional governments) demanded the maintenance of the use of masks in public spaces, restricted closing hours (although food and drink consumption was still allowed indoors) and prevented the organisation of large events. Of course, the management of public services such as health and education was destructive, and as soon as the pandemic began to subside, the cuts in this field begun. But it is also true that the working class had already suffered the cuts of both the PSOE Zapatero government and successive Andalusian governments of the PSOE. These had dedicated themselves to privatize different parts of public services, including the management of hospitals, enriching private companies at the cost of deteriorating these essential services for the working class.
The media are partly right to consider the victory of PP as historic. They put forward an analysis that it consolidates the decline of PSOE after 40 years of governing Andalusia. But from my point of view they are wrong to consider these results a clear turn to the right. Juanma Moreno, the president of the Junta (the local government), made a completely personal election campaign, and has almost hidden the acronym of the PP in his electoral propaganda. In the celebration of this victory, he practically wrapped himself in the Andalusian flag, instead of promoting Spanish nationalism as the PP does in the rest of the Spanish state. Many PP votes were votes “borrowed” from traditional PSOE voters, disillusioned by the lack of left-wing policies from the central government, and frightened by a possible insufficient victory of the PP that would lead to a PP-Vox coalition. In addition, the PP has been favoured by a low electoral participation – only 58.36% -, the third lowest in the regional elections in Andalusia. The fact is that in the Spanish state a high abstention is normally due to a demobilisation of left-wing and social democrat voters which favours the right.
Further to the left of the PSOE, two electoral coalitions were presented and obtained seats: Por Andalucía (For Andalusia) obtained 5 seats, while Adelante Andalucía (Forward Andalusia) obtained 2. However, this same political space presented only one candidacy in 2018, obtaining 17 seats, so they have lost in total 10 seats, paying the price for what was perceived as sterile infighting and division on the left. On the other hand, they have suffered by an electoral system that is not favourable to the smaller formations.
The origin of the division was the entry into the central government of Unidas Podemos (Izquierda Unida + Podemos mainly) in coalition with PSOE. Anticapitalistas, an important part in the foundation of Podemos (We can) in Andalusia, claimed that this government, due to the capitalist and pro-big business character of PSOE, was going to be a government of cuts in which the left should not participate. Moreover, they claimed it was going to give more political space to the far right to present itself as an opposition party and as an anti-systemic force. We agreed with Anticapitalistas in this aspect and at the time we argued that Unidas Podemos (United we can) had another option; to allow the creation of a PSOE government, in order to end almost two terms of the hated and corrupt PP, but to remain as opposition in the parliament and in the streets to any cuts or anti-worker policies of this government. After the exit of Anticapitalistas from Podemos, which was staged as peaceful, there was a series of conflicts with their former coalition partners regarding resources and the organisation name that ended up with the expulsion of the Anticapitalistas deputies from their parliamentary group, while their leader, Teresa Rodriguez, was on maternity leave.
Teresa Rodríguez, leader of Adelante Andalucía (mainly Anticapitalistas, with other smaller local left forces), was the strongest candidate against the retrograde rhetoric of Vox during the electoral debates, defending basic democratic rights such as that of students to receive sex education. She also unmasked the false “pro-working class” rhetoric of the far right. However, too much emphasis on defending the Andalusian national consciousness did not get the attention of the working class, because the PP does not have a problem in itself promoting this and wrapping itself in the Andalusian flag. The anti-capitalist and working-class character of this organization must therefore gain more importance in its discourse.
And now what?
The absolute majority of the PP is going to give them a free hand to govern Andalusia and to be able to continue applying savage cuts like those implemented up to now: closing of medical consultations (including paediatrics) in the public health service, dismissal of 8,000 health workers when the pandemic began to subside, elimination of classes in Infant Education (which means an increase in the student ratios), etc. These cuts are already being felt, for example, in the enormous increase in private medical insurance, given the difficulties and waiting time to get a medical appointment in a public health centre.
But the Andalusian working class cannot resign itself to four years of PP government in Andalusia without presenting a battle against the cuts and privatizations that it will undoubtedly continue to carry out. It has to present resistance above all in the streets, since in parliament it cannot hope to stop them.
The reconstruction of left alliances in the face of the general elections to be held at the latest by the end of 2023 is also important, but the experience of the participation in the coalition government by Unidas Podemos holds different lessons in this regard.
First, that the most progressive policies that Unidas Podemos have managed to implement come from mobilising and building on social movements and their demands. For example, the rise of the feminist movement in recent years has served to extend the right to abortion to girls between 16 and 18 years of age without parental consent, or has led to the approval of the “Only yes is yes” law.
Secondly, that this new political force cannot be built centrally from Madrid or based on personalities, not even on figures like Yolanda Diaz, who is very popular among some sectors of the working class for achieving a Labour Reform which aims to fight against temporary employment, but which is considered insufficient by many other workers (after all, it was agreed and accepted by the bosses).
There is no lack of reasons for mobilization in Andalusia. As a simple example, the five poorest towns of the Spanish state are in Andalusia, as well as three of its poorest neighbourhoods, which are in the capital of Andalusia, Seville. To fight against poverty and inequality, it is necessary to create a truly democratic organisation of the left space and arm it with a programme for the working class which is not satisfied with a friendlier management of capitalism.