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Political Confusion in Spain

In the four months since national elections in Spain, a fractured and fractious Parliament has failed to agree on a government. After the failure of an 11th-hour effort brokered by King Felipe VI this week, Spain was compelled to call new elections for late June. Polls show that the next Parliament could be even more contentious, leading to more months of political limbo.

After decades in which two parties took turns at the helm, voters in December backed upstart parties that promised a fresh start, relief from austerity and an end to the scandals and cronyism of the old guard. That should have started an effort by political leaders to rise above personal ambitions and rivalries, but the reality has been closer to what Spaniards disdainfully refer to as circo, or a circus.

The two main parties, the Popular Party of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Socialists, refused to form a grand coalition, while the emerging parties, the centrist Ciudadanos and the far-left Podemos, fell to squabbling and mutual animosity.

Spain is not alone in its political confusion. These are troubled times across Europe, with the euro crisis, the refugee crisis and growing disenchantment with the European Union. Ireland has failed in multiple attempts to form a government and Portugal took 53 days after October elections to shape a coalition; in Hungary and Poland, electorates have brought in xenophobic governments; the British will vote on whether to leave the E.U.

But Spain cannot long endure a vacuum. The European Commission is pressuring Madrid to further reduce its budget deficit, and the next government will determine the response. Austerity is one reason Mr. Rajoy lost his majority, and left-wing parties have campaigned on an anti-austerity platform.

Democracy can turn messy at times like these. But as Spain confronts a new national election, it is important to keep in mind that democracy is not the cause of the troubles, as authoritarian leaders would argue, but a reflection of a nation trying to sort them out. One clear message from the Spanish elections in December was a longing for better and more honest leadership. Spain's squabbling politicians should remember that.

[Source: By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, 27Apr16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 04May16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.