There never were just two parties in Spain, although until recently (leaving the regional parties aside for a moment), we had a two-party system. The PP and the PSOE – the right and the left.
The fringe parties, like the Izquierda Unida (a group made up of dozens of small radical parties and associations), the whatever centrist party de jour (the UCD, the CDS, the UPyD and latterly, Ciudadanos) and perhaps over the hills and behind the trees, the peculiar fascist parties (the venerable Falange Española de los Jons (here), plus the Alianza Nacional and numerous other oddities), all bubbled quietly in the background, along with the ludicrous Pacma (the pets’ party here) and the Basque, Catalonian, Galician, Canarian and others regionalist, sometimes independent groups.
Plus the remarkable birth of the Podemos (far left) in March 2014 and Vox (far right) a few months earlier in December 2013. Why would these two parties become so successful – perhaps because the two main parties were at the time embroiled in many dispiriting cases of corruption: Madrid and Valencia for the PP, and Seville for the PSOE.
Podemos rose fast, gaining an astonishing 69 deputies in their first national elections of December 2015 – over 20% of the national vote. By the December elections of 2019, the party had shrunk to 35 deputies and almost 13% of the vote. On the bright side (for them) they joined the PSOE-led government coalition as a junior party.
Vox on the other hand started slowly, with no representation in the 2015 and 2016 elections, however the election in December 2019 brought them 52 deputies and 15% of the national vote.
What had happened to suddenly turn just another partido de la ultraderecha into such a giant?
While there’s no doubt that obscure money and powerful enemies have done much to scupper Podemos (Venezuela, anyone?) it now emerges that at the same time, similar (or maybe the same) groups have been financing and promoting Vox. Wikileaks has just published a wealth of material on the far-right Catholic organisations in Spain Hazte Oír and its partner CitizenGO. The two groups, together with some right-wing newspapers (such as OKDiario, ABC and La Razón) and a number of wealthy supporters and companies (named here) have been steadily pushing the party’s fortunes forward.
Meanwhile, a 2019 undercover investigation by OpenDemocracy confirmed ties between Spanish Hazte Oír and CitizenGo with right wing political parties across Europe in Spain, Italy and Hungary. There have also been reports regarding ties to El Yunque, a secret militant Mexican Group…’. The article gives examples of the financial support from CitizenGo to Vox.
The story broke in Spain last week: Público reported that ‘Major fortunes and senior Spanish executives financed the birth of Vox through the ultra-Catholic group Hazte Oír’. Certainly, we read here that some members of Hazte Oír wound up as deputies in Vox.
The names of people and corporations who have donated funds to Hazte Oír, at least up to 2017, includes Esther Koplowitz (FCC), Isidoro Álvarez (El Corte Inglés) and Juan Miguel Villar-Mir (OHL).
Bringing rise to stories like ‘Thousands of people call for a boycott of El Corte Inglés for having financed Vox’.
All of which may explain how Vox – just another obscure far-right party knocking around the gutters in 2013 – suddenly shot to public prominence.
Needless to say, these damaging revelations from Wikileaks have naturally not found room in any of Spain’s more conservative news-sites.
From The Express here: ‘Spain second home sales jump as Britons 'regain appetite' for Spanish property. A rise in demand for second homes in Spain has seen a resurgence in sales among British buyers - with property in the Costa del Sol proving the most popular’ (Taylor Wimpey España gets more than one mention in the article).
The ERTE (furlough scheme) may have saved lots of jobs, and the fate of many companies during the pandemic, but, as usual, there were a few cons. From elDiario.es here, ‘The Ministry of Labour has fined 5,500 companies for fraud over miss-use of the ERTE system for a reported total of 26 million euros. Inspectors found infractions in one of every six ERTE investigated…’.
‘An external director receives 240,000€ per annum at Endesa, 374,000€ at Iberdrola, 178,000€ at Red Eléctrica Española and 225,000€ at Naturgy. Without looking at political affiliation, we can say that three former presidents, more than twenty ministers and dozens of secretaries of state are well-paid by the power companies. Maybe that’s the problem’. Some thoughts from a Twitter account here.
From The Corner here: ‘What Is Soft Power and Why Spain is a Powerhouse’. It answers its own question by saying ‘Spain scores very well in some of the parameters that generate soft power. We enjoy a gastronomy, a cultural heritage, writers, filmmakers and sportsmen of the highest level. All this creates a kind of sympathy and attraction towards Spain among the citizens of other countries, which results in economic benefits, either through tourism or through the consumption of products made in Spain abroad.
In other words, a country’s soft power is its capacity to weave alliances and influence in the international sphere, through the interest that the cultural, political or economic attributes of its society arouse in the citizens of other nations…’.
‘Sánchez and Casado are both on their holidays with all of the bridges between the Government and the PP broken’. Thus 20Minutos last weekend here. It says ‘…The chief executive recently presented a report where he says that in the year and a half of his term in office his government has so far fulfilled one out of every three election promises, although it has not been thanks to the collaboration of the opposition, whom he blamed for "provocation" from the beginning of his mandate, in clear reference to the PP. And the truth is that, if Pablo Casado began the legislature critical of the Government coalition with Unidas Podemos, he finished this political break in the same way and without any sign of rapprochement…’. La Vanguardia leads with ‘The PP fears that the recovery of the economy could slow down its hopes to take the next election’.
From El País here: ‘The PP is forced to agree on many issues with Vox but will try to reduce the electoral space of its far-right competitor. Santiago Abascal seeks to replace Ciudadanos as the partner of the PP in the municipal and autonomous regions of 2023’
Pablo Casado has another concern to deal with – that maybe the colourful leader of the party in the Madrid Region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, would make a more electable leader for the party. elDiario.es looks at the issue here.
When it comes to Climate Change, reports Spanish Revolution here, ‘Vox's climate change denial argument revealed: "We are not going to waste more money on this scam", they say’.
From El País in English here: ‘Spain’s Covid-19 immunization drive: more than 60% of population fully vaccinated. Nine in 10 people aged 40 and over are completely immunized, and most regions have started to focus on inoculating the 12-and-over population’.
Something that many of us must be guilty of: ‘A study finds that voters close their eyes to the irregularities of their own party’. Only 15% of stalwarts are prepared to read of corruption issues within their preferred political party (which is why many news-sources fail to discuss them at all). La Vanguardia delves into the issue here.
From The Guardian here: ‘Spanish reality TV show takes on problem of rural depopulation. Forty contestants will compete to launch businesses from villages of fewer than 5,000 people’. We read that ‘…The goal is to radically shift how people view rural life, said Patricia García Gómez, the show’s co-creator. “We see villages as places for rural tourism or agriculture, but we never see them for what they are in the 21st century, places where you can launch any kind of start-up.”…’.
How far the aero-generators that decorate our countryside actually contribute to lowering the cost of electricity seems a moot point, but Público reports that a plan to add a further 8,000 of them to the current 7,000 that adorn the hills in the northern part of Spain are being met with unease by local residents.
From El Huff Post here, ‘The great report from the IPCC on climate change warns that "irreversible" changes have already been caused for the next "centuries or millennia"’. There are a couple of videos, and a section called ‘Spain, Red Point!’ which says that the next world meeting on Climate Change, COP26 (here) – in Glasgow during the first part of November – is the last chance to mend our ways. LaSexta has a documentary on the expected rise in temperatures in Spain over the next three decades, with Córdoba to endure summer temperatures by 2050 of 44ºC – the average summer heat for Baghdad in 2020 (video). Mind you, Lenox’ trusty telephone says that Córdoba can expect highs of 46ºC this Friday and Saturday! The sea could rise, says the TV channel, by a metre in the same time period.
‘Experts warn climate measures will raise household costs and say ‘compensation’ will be needed’, says Catalan News here.
From elDiario.es here: ‘Sánchez cools the return of King Juan Carlos and Unidas Podemos describe the attitude of the emeritus as "unworthy". The president and the socialist wing of the Government are working to distance Felipe VI from the alleged irregular activities of his father with the aim of safeguarding the image of the Spanish monarchy, while Minister Ione Belarra considers that his departure to the United Arab Emirates represents a "serious democratic anomaly"’.
A brief video on Twitter has a Catholic priest explaining El Yunque here. He warns against a Christian organisation meddling in politics. More in the follow-up comments.
Some of the oddest Twitter proposals and exaggerations from Vox so far this year here.
Why won’t the leaders of Vox share photographs of themselves being vaccinated, unlike all the other politicians? Negationism, says El Español here.
From El País in English here: ‘Spain braces for heat-wave with 10 provinces on alert for high temperatures. The thermometer is forecast to rise to above 40ºC on Friday and Saturday, and could exceed 44ºC in the southern region of Andalucía’. Gasp!
Not that we are likely to be ripped off by our local mechanic down at the taller, but who knows about the magic of what goes on under the hood? A video at YouTube shows us some of the tricks here.
Why Lionel Messi left Barcelona. A sad tale from Catalan News here.
The Olive Press has an interesting article about an alternate Olympics to the Nazi German one which was to be held at the same time in 1936 called The Peoples’ Olympiad of Barcelona. Numerous countries and international organisations had decided to take action, starting a boycott campaign and putting pressure on the games being organised in Berlin. The Barcelona games were, of course, derailed by the start of the Civil War. It says ‘…Unfortunately, none of this came to pass. On the day the games were scheduled to begin, the athletes woke up to the sounds of shooting, rather than festivities…’.
Graffiti-painting is not only illegal and provocative, it can also be dangerous. A report at elDiario.es looks at the ‘Thirty years of graffiti in the Barcelona metro: an illegal practice loaded with both risk and adrenaline. A photo-book called ‘Barcelona Showdown’ documents for the first time three decades of a phenomenon that has existed under the city’.
‘Spain bans small boats from a stretch of water after orca encounters. Two-week order on coast between Cape Trafalgar and Barbate is the second time authorities have taken action’ says The Guardian here.
Also from The Guardian here: ‘A Spanish village seeks Unesco world heritage status for outdoor chats. The Mayor of the Cadíz pueblo of Algar (pop 1,400) says the tradition is the ‘opposite of social media’ and it’s good for mental health’. Full marks for trying!
‘A well-preserved Visigoth coffin has been unearthed by archaeologists at Los Villaricos (Murcia). The University of Murcia (UMU) announced the find last month. The six-and-a-half-foot-long sarcophagus is intricately carved with a curving spiral motif. Ivy leaves decorate the lid. Inside the coffin, researchers discovered a set of human remains, with a possible second body laid at the other’s feet…’. More at Art News here.
Spain gets the gold for animals as ‘over 50% of Europe's species are found in the country and more than 5% of those worldwide’. An interesting article from Think Spain here.
Different sorts of Brits at Eye on Spain here.
Molly at Piccavey visits the town of Montilla (Córdoba), and tries the wine there.
Something mellow for the summer: Golden Brown with Mariachi Mexteca and Hugh Cornwell on YouTube here.