As strange as it may seem, the Partido Popular and the PSOE have maintained a kind of love-hate relationship over the years, a relationship which has often allowed a certain leeway not available towards other political rivals.
Then along came two major new players, both born in part to counter the Old Guard with fresh ideas, and both in part to fight against corruption (a perennial scourge on this country which seems to leave the majority of Spaniards largely indifferent).
Yet, Ciudadanos and Unidos Podemos won’t sit down together if they can help it. Of course, one is centre-right, the other is hard left, but both have a few things in common, so it is odd that they won’t even consider discussing common ground.
The Unidos Podemos wants to call a Motion of Censure – a vote of no confidence – against the governing Partido Popular for their evident history of corruption. The PSOE (depending on who is their eventual leader) are against the idea. Ciudadanos, however, won’t even discuss it, calling the whole thing ’a circus act’. Perhaps a few more cases brought to light (if there are any more) might persuade them to reconsider? Apparently not.
Supporters of Ciudadanos may not be in agreement with the politic of their leaders on this issue, but Ciudadanos say that they are weakening the strength of the PP from within the legislature and will take advantage of this when another general election comes around in the fullness of time
The motion from Podemos itself will nevertheless go ahead. Let’s see how it plays out...
‘Another real estate bubble could appear in Spain’, says El País, adding: ‘Both the credit shortage and today’s low wages are stalling the purchase of homes along, of course, with the current price increase, but these are patches that do little to slow down the high sales in property’.
‘After spending the last few years groggily getting back onto its feet following the collapse of one of the most spectacular—and destructive—real estate bubbles of this century, Spain’s economy is once again being primed for another property boom. In the last quarter, prices registered a year-on-year rise of 4.5%. Rents are also surging, though the country is still home to over half a million vacant properties. The cost of renting in Madrid and Barcelona, which between them account for 16% of those vacant properties, has reached historic highs, according to a new study by the online real estate market place Idealista. In Madrid, rents have risen on average by 27% since 2013; in Barcelona they’ve surged over 50%, MarketWatch reported. This trend is being driven by two main factors: the recent explosion in tourist rentals, as well as a general shift in consumer behaviour, as more and more people choose (or have little choice but) to rent rather than buy property...’. Taken from an editorial from the Iranian Financial Tribune. The point is also raised by Wolf Street here.
Found at the somewhat breathless Viva, we read ‘...From holidays to home-buying, Brits have continued to view Spain as their country of choice, with the number of flight and hotel bookings so far this year already up on 2016’s record-breaker of a year. But there had been concern that the weaker pound and ongoing political turmoil stemming from the British Prime Minister’s signing of Article 50 (which has formally begun the Brexit process) would serve to suppress demand for Spanish property among British buyers. According to Spanish property portal Kyero’s Richard Speigal, however, far from being scared away, many potential British buyers are stoically and stubbornly sticking to their ideals: that being the pursuit of the dream Spanish home in the sun...’.
El Mundo warns that the Valencian Government is closing off opportunities for fresh urbanisations, with ‘over 25,000 homes unbuilt’ because of fresh regulations and strictures. Why will no one think of the foreigners’ ready cash...? We read that: ‘Companies, professionals and operators linked to residential tourism, one of the main sources of wealth and employment in the province of Alicante, are concerned about the new urban policy undertaken by the Consell. The sector, specifically the one that develops its activity in the Vega Baja – the great nucleus of this industry in the Valencian Community (residential tourism is for Vega Baja something similar to what is footwear for Elche or hotels for Benidorm) – recognizes that there is a fear founded by the imminent amendment of planning rules by the Generalitat, and that such a step would jeopardizes the bases of the recovery and development of the industry, just as it is once again regaining the speed of a cruise missile (sic)’.
Another plan for that Las Vegas resort in Madrid: ‘ After the regional government of Madrid turned down The Cordish Companies’ plan for a casino and resort in Madrid in March, the US real estate developer and entertainment operator has come back with a new proposal that would include more sports and cultural facilities. The regional government of Madrid turned down The Cordish Companies project, originally proposed in December, for three main reasons: it questioned its economic viability, adding that some €340 million would need to be invested in infrastructure, and finally that the initial phase lacked the cultural and sports facilities required to make it eligible for fast-tracking as a CID Integral Development Centre, which provides tax breaks and other advantages, the route Cordish had requested...’. From El País in English here. The article also reveals the extension of the current plans.
The Government has a new Housing Plan, reports Ideal. ‘The new Plan Vivienda, which will come into force in 2018, will have specific aid lines for young people under 35, plus those over 65 and people who have been evicted by the banks, provided that they have an annual income of under €20,000...’. The plan will provide a government loan of up to 20% of the price of the property for young buyers and help with rentals; while older property owners can find help with their utility payments.
The tourist spend is decidedly ‘up’ in the first quarter on 2017, says Agent Travel. It seems that the average foreign tourist spends 1,039 euros while in Spain, at an average of 141€ per day. In all, the first quarter saw 13,655 million euros arrive in the cash registers. .
Spain has more ‘Blue flag beaches’ than ever, and has more of them than any other country with 579 top quality beaches to enjoy. A map at Vozpópuli shows us where they are.
Airbnb may be a thorn in the Town Hall of Barcelona’s side, but it’s a very pleasant one, according to a report at El Independiente. The company generated over 1,000 million euros for Barcelona’s apartment owners in 2016. That’s 167 million euros of tax collected.
We have seen how the population in Spain is aging (42.9 against the EU average of 39.5). Part of this is due to the age of the foreign residents in Spain, says Bolsamanía, including the British (average age 53.2), the Germans (49) and the French (42.6). Indeed, seven Spanish provinces are among the top ten territories in all of Europe for Seniors, with the province of Zamora in second place Europe-wide, says Bez here.
N3WS Tercera Edad is a Spanish cyber-magazine with sometimes useful information for the elderly.
Unemployment fell in April. As El País in English explains, ‘April has been a particularly good month for the Spanish job market. The number of people who filed jobless claims went down by 129,281, the biggest drop for a single month in the entire historical series. The previous record had been set in June 2013. The total number of people without a job now stands at 3.57 million, according to the Labour Ministry. Meanwhile, the number of employed grew by 212,216, as measured by new Social Security affiliations. This brings the total number of contributors to the national welfare system to 18.12 million...’.
The European Central Bank has issued estimates of the real levels of unemployment across Europe, and rate Spain at around 30%. Graphic and story at Yo Me Tiro al Monte here.
El Confidencial introduces us to Martin Gruschka, the businessman behind a ‘vulture company’ called Springwater (here), of whom, they say, ‘In a few years, this German entrepreneur has left a trail of bankrupt companies, workers in the street without compensation and debts with administrations and suppliers’. Ah, but it’s all just sound business, right?
‘Discovering the Mediterranean (and tapping into its pro-European attitudes)’, an interesting paper on the group of seven southern EU countries, found at The Royal Institute El Cano.
‘As Socialist party (PSOE) candidates Pedro Sánchez, Susana Díaz and Patxi López enter the final stretch in the run-up to leadership elections on 21st May, Díaz partisans received a shock at the weekend when the recount of signatures of support from party militants presented by each of the candidates’ teams revealed that expected widespread support for Díaz candidacy is lagging against a surge of support for former PSOE secretary-general and leadership rival Sánchez...’. From Progressive Spain here. As various sources have noted, the PP prefers Susana Díaz as the PSOE candidate (here and here). The three candidates will meet in a televised debate next Monday 15th May at 12 noon.
What happens when the chief prosecutor for corruption is himself under a cloud? From
El Confidencial comes: ‘The anti-corruption prosecutor, Manuel Moix, defends his impartiality. He insists he is not connected to any political party and that he has never tried to protect any suspect from investigation. In the midst of the Operación Lezo issue of telephone warnings to the potential suspects, as well as requests for his resignation by the PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos for "obstructing" the task of prosecutors in cases of corruption, Moix defends himself against the accusations...’. The senior political figure, the State Attorney General, says he has every confidence in Sr Moix (El Mundo here). Then, from El Huff Post, we read: ‘The press is to blame. State Attorney General José Manuel Maza is more concerned about the leaks of the summary of the case to journalists than he is about the leaks that a magistrate and a member of the government make to los corruptos, alerting them that they are being investigated...’.
The Pujol family is rarely mentioned these days without reference to huge sums of money, offshore banks and regular visits to Andorra. Here at El Independiente, we read of the cash-rich family adding 41.6 million euros to their bank in Andorra between 1992 and 2014.
Facua is a useful and sometimes powerful citizens’ consumer advocacy group. Here they successfully take a concessionary to court for selling a second-hand car without a proper service. The buyer complained after numerous faults with the car and has been awarded his money and costs returned.
‘Españoles en Reino Unido - Surviving Brexit!’ The Facebook page is here.
A fuss as Canal Sur (sometimes known as Canal Susanita) runs an item on its news program about the candidates for the PSOE, while failing to mention Susana Díaz’ rival Pedro Sánchez. An oversight, no doubt.
El País: ‘Concern over the Podemos deputy who suckled her baby in the Cortes’ and ‘The Australian MP championing the fight suckles her baby in parliament’, Two very different articles from the same newspaper... More on those double standards here.
The French Election Results
by Andrew Brociner
The second round of the French elections took place on Sunday and the front runner, Macron, won convincingly. This is the first time since the Fifth Republic was formed that either the Socialists or the Republicans will not govern. France is now the latest country to have gone through the wave of anti-establishment protest votes, the rise of populism and the far right, and the division of its people.
But this election was also important because it was the latest test for Europe. After Brexit and the US elections, some European countries recently went through similar challenges to see if the far-right nationalist candidates, who are anti-EU, would win and set off a process which would reverse the last sixty years of closer integration. Austria came close, as it reached a re-vote, but the far-right party lost. The same happened in the Netherlands, where the far-right movement lost its momentum towards the end. This time, it was France's turn, with the Front National arriving in the second round, but in the end, was not to win either. The importance of France as one of the largest economies in the EU, as well as being one of its original six founding members, made this vote significant. It was the vote of protest, as populist parties in Europe divided opinion and diverted from the mainstream, but at the end of the day, they were not to rule a nation nor dismantle the EU. The most they have achieved, together with other non-traditional parties, of different persuasions, is to highlight the discontentment with the establishment prevalent in these countries.
There were many elements similar to the other elections we have gone through, the rise of nationalist parties, the wave of populism, the disgruntlement with the establishment, the intolerance of corruption, the polarisation of the people, the protest vote. And during the campaigns, there were similar tactics: the hacking of the personal computers of the opponents of the far right, with documents made public, allegedly by Russian intervention; the mud-slinging, with random pot-shots aimed at disparaging the candidate; and the fake news, with a disrespect for journalists of a particular slant, or more to the point, not of theirs. Le Pen, during the televised debate, revealed herself to be a poor player taking cheap shots at Macron, with a child-like demeanour and offering nothing of substance behind the gloss of her platform, in some cases appearing confused on some concepts. Of course, to anyone watching the US elections, all of this is familiar. It is another sign of the times. Macron, keeping his composure, won hands down and this served to re-enforce his unassailable lead.
His gambit in leaving the shambolic Socialist party to form his own new party was astute and impeccably timed. In France, there was no equivalent of Podemos in Spain or the Five-Star movement in Italy and therefore he saw this opportunity to present an alternative to the establishment. Of course, he was not the only one, as Mélenchon did the same thing, and did remarkably well for a far-left candidate. He then went on to emulate Obama's grassroots campaign, galvanizing troops of young people to his cause, had volunteers conduct detailed interviews to gauge the mood of the country and, at the same time, also made people aware of his movement. The campaign, attracting young voters, appeared new, positive and fresh, as opposed to the negativity and anger surrounding Le Pen's gatherings.
Last year, Le Pen was polling near 30%, but in the first round she got 21.5% and was heavily beaten in the second. Her ratings were steadily sliding for months before the elections, and this is similar to the run up to the elections in the Netherlands. Still, the number of voters over the decades for the Front National has steadily increased. Also, the number of abstentions was the highest in decades, along with the number of blank ballots, a sign that many were not happy with either candidate. Moreover, many others voted Macron only to block the far right, even though they did not agree with his policies.
Almost as soon as the election results were in, in one area of Paris, there was the usual partying and celebrations following an election, but in another, there were the protests and the riots of the anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, the so-called “ni-ni” voters, those who want neither Le Pen nor Macron. And while the former danced in the streets, the latter were subdued with tear gas. It was a tale of two nations, a country divided: one believing in the new movement with hope, the other bitterly disappointed with the absence of what they perceive as real change. And while Macron might have fulfilled his dreams, he will now have to govern a divided and disillusioned people.
‘Immigrants against immigration’. The alarming title from El Confidencial begins with the consideration that ‘...the little there is, is for those of us who are already here’. An interesting viewpoint from several third world immigrants.
Following the crisis, now largely over, many towns and villages were left without a single bank. Currently, about half of all pueblos in Spain (48% of the 8,117 municipalities) are in this situation, although some of them are served by ‘travelling banks’ installed within a van.
As an item reaches the public of spoiled tuna from a packaging plant in Vera, Almería (here), another story makes the headlines, with 2,000 kilos of past its sell-date meat and 2,000 litres of vinegary wine, plus a quantity of faked labels, being prepared for sale in Murcia. Público has more here.
‘The British historian Hugh Thomas, author of a seminal book on the Spanish Civil War, died on Saturday at age 85. His death was announced by the Spanish news organization Abc, to which Thomas was a regular contributor. His 1961 The Spanish Civil War, published in Paris when he was just 30 years old, was banned by the Franco regime back in Spain. It became a highly influential work during the country’s transition to democracy, and has since become a classic reference in the existing literature about the 1936-1939 period in Spanish history...’. From El País in English here.
How about a version of The Little Prince (El Principito) in Andalusian? It would have to be called something like ‘Er Prinzipito’. Such a book might begin with ‘"Una beh, kuando yo tenía zeih z'añiyoh, bi un dibuho mahnífiko en un libro a tento'e la zerba bihen ke ze yamaba 'Histoires Vécues (Ihtoriah bibíah)' "...’. And yes, it’s out there!
‘Cops in Magaluf will be patrolling its beaches using Segways this summer. It comes after Calvia town hall presented its beach security plans for the season on Wednesday. There will be four new Segways and two quad bikes patrolling the stretch of sand between Magaluf and Palmanova...’. The item from The Olive Press here. (We can almost hear the policeman shout: ‘Stop, or I’ll fall off!’)
‘Palma de Mallorca has recently been voted ‘The Best Place to Live in the World’ by the Financial Times ... With a picturesque and historic old city, beaches within walking distance, a friendly and easy-going community, an affordable cost of living and a great climate with 300 days of sunshine – it has everything one could possibly want for a relatively small and unassuming Mediterranean island. The city of Palma is also only a short drive from the airport, with plenty of cheap flights to mainland Europe and the UK making it easily commutable. But that´s only part of the story…’. The Olive Press has more.
ABC takes us to ‘the most interesting abandoned sites in Spain’.
Penélles, a village in Lérida with more graffiti than inhabitants. Nice? Maybe. Video here.
‘The Spanish town that ended up in France. Llivia was ceded to the French in 1659, but a bureaucratic oversight kept it officially in Spain. For the last 354 years Llivia has been separated from its homeland, a small piece of Spain some five kilometres within French territory, deep in the Pyrenees...’. The story, from El País in English, is three years old.
Nº 207 was a beauty, just continue like this. I have sent a mail of support as a "Norwegian Andaluz" to the brave Spiriman. If we had more people as him and less corrupt politicians, Spain would be a fine place.
If the PSOE members vote for Suzana, that great party is committing suicide...!
Much has been made about the disastrously low rate of the Pound with producers stating that prices must rise etc etc.
They forget conveniently that the Pound has seen much lower days over the last ten years even on one occasion reaching near parity with the Euro. I enclose a chart.
The gloom and doom merchants just love it but do we have to always be carried along with them?
Best regards, JC.