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Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Merkel in La Moncloa

Por: | 04 de noviembre de 2011

Rubalcaba and Rajoy
Just under four years ago, nobody heard Zapatero promising cutbacks or austerity, and it is far from clear that Spain's Socialist leader knew what a country's risk premium was. Well, who did? Oh, yeah, those guys knew - you know, the ones who are running the show.
 
No, in March 2008 the impeccably third-way government in Madrid had done its homework, running a budget surplus and still being able to give away baby bonds and implement other more meaningful measures to augment Spain's patchy welfare state. There seemed to be a clear choice when the then-unfashionably austere televised debates (why can't a real TV journalist do it instead of the venerable president of the Television Academy?) took place between Zapatero and the Popular Party's Rajoy: market-based social democracy against unabashed neoliberalism. Zapatero won again and then we all woke up.
 
This time around, many Spaniards must feel a little foolish choosing between Zapatero's Socialist successor Rubalcaba or third-time-lucky Rajoy. Couldn't one just cut out the middle man and vote directly for Merkel, Murdoch or the CEO of Moody's? While Spain has so far avoided a bailout, this was only achieved by Zapatero's disturbingly dramatic conversion to market orthodoxy in May of last year, when his government's Keynesian knee-jerk was converted overnight into a sycophantic promise to square the state's sums by carving away at public employees' salaries, pensions and even the flagship Equality Ministry, binned to save a pittance. So what choice do voters have this time? No wonder the PP is way in the lead; in this environment, isn't it better to send someone who has always liked markets to go and do battle with the men in suits?
 
Earlier this year in Portugal, the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) came to power... (wrong expression) ...won the right to administrate the IMF-dictated budget after a European Union-arranged bailout that the same party had helped to bring about. As opposition leader, Pedro Passos Coelho refused to back Socialist PM Sócrates' austerity package which was to shave 4.5 percent off GDP over three years. Sócrates resigned, there was a run on Portugal's downgraded sovereign debt, and before the election was held in early June a 78-billion-euro bailout package was agreed to by Lisbon, Brussels and Washington. Passos Coelho emerged as the "victor" with a glorious mandate to captain the wreck that is the Portuguese economy as it is towed along by the masters of international capital.
Marcha_15-O_Lisboa
 
In last month's 2012 budget proposal, Passos Coelho's government announced that the imperative of meeting externally imposed deficit-reduction targets means that GDP will shrink by 2.8 percent next year. So what has the ousting of Sócrates amounted to for the electorate? If within this legislature the EU/IMF medicine actually starts to work for the Portuguese, rather than just in the interests of the euro-zone leaders, he can take credit for it. If not, Passos Coelho will no doubt blame the mess he inherited - except that he helped to engineer the crisis. 
 
As in Spain today, there was no real choice; the policy path had already been laid down. To be fair, Rajoy has not played so foully for the crown. True, he refused to vote in favor of a pension freeze and civil service pay cuts, measures which he would be perfectly sanguine about implementing in the same circumstances. But Zapatero relied on Catalan and Basque nationalists to force down such bitter pills in his stubborn rearguard fight against outside intervention. It is a battle no one could have expected ZP, the champion of gay marriage and ministerial gender equality, to wage with such determination; to his credit, it seems that Spain will reach November 20 without the need for an external rescue package. But it has ripped the heart out of the Socialists to the extent that not even the skillful hands of Rubalcaba will be able to beautify the party's electoral cadaver.
 
Outside the parliaments in Lisbon and Madrid, the words "não" and "no" are ringing in the ears of representatives that the protestors say no longer represent the people. Here, in the cooperative spirit of collectivized camp-outs and open debates, there is the germ of a new politic, far from Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington. What began in Madrid's Sol is now occupying Wall Street. How many more non-elections like the one in Spain this month will pass by before these new voices gain representation?   
Photographs by Uly Martín and Armando Franca (AP)

Hay 5 Comentarios

During a press prevalence at the monoclonal palace, Rodriguez Zapata blamed both gunfire on the saboteur aviation ETA and vowed to bring all of its fragments to justice.

I'm just always hoping there's going to be a breakthrough. Every time they meet, I hope they're getting close." With so many meetings ending in heartbreak, does he still muster hope every time? "I just patch my heart up," he says, "and hope that it doesn't get broken again. I'm going on the ride with them the whole way." Martin's comments have made him the most prominent player to openly plea for a quick deal.

PIGS are the problem, and now seems that France and Germany will join to that group too.

Shout Isaac a beer, Jimmy, he's got himself enough brownie points now...

this write up, is the most right news of the hour, i like to thank the writer , james badcock, you did a very nice presentation of facts, thanks for keeping us informed. keep it up, bravo!!!!!

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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