Yesterday March 25 regional elections took place in two autonomous communities in Spain – Andalucía and Asturias. The results were more or less what were expected, in that the Andalusians voted slightly more for the Popular Party and J. Arenas than the PSOE led by Griñan. Arenas need fifty-five seats in the Andaluz parliament for the all-essential absolute majority. He did not achieve this, winning fifty to the forty-seven won by the PSOE.
What is most interesting about the election campaigns for autonomies or especially general elections in Spain is the erroneous use of the words ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’. Spain is not a democracy. She has her 1978 Constitution: Spanish politicians use either of the words quoted above in every speech. But Spain cannot be a democracy for at least two very pungent reasons, remembering all the while that the word ‘democracy’ means ‘government OF the people, FOR the people and BY the people’. In this well-known description or definition there is not mention either of ‘political parties’, or ‘pacts’. In Spain, voters vote for a Party, not for a Person. At the polling station they must choose which party they want to govern them. When the results are in, the various parties that have won enough seats to give them a voice in Congress and Senate decide who will have this job, that job and the other job. This is what led, in the previous administration, to the appointment by the Party of a person with no qualifications whatsoever to head the Health Ministry. If the Spanish people had been voting for Persons instead of Parties, it is extremely unlikely that they would have voted for this individual, as she appeared to have nothing to offer, except that she had worked for the Spanish Worker’s Socialist Party since leaving school young. I do see that her mother (in the same line of work) would have voted for her.
In truly democratic countries the enfranchised vote for people. They must have proved that they will govern better than others. They must have experience. They must be able to show their intelligence. They should be good orators, not merely readers of speeches written by someone they probably do not even know. These people usually belong to a recognised political party, but that is a secondary consideration.
The second obstruction to Spain being really democratic is the infamous ‘pacting’ system whereby a party can be first past the post with more votes in an election, but may not then rule, party that came second itself ‘makes a pact’ with one or several other minority parties, a combination that provides more seats in the town hall, community or national government. This contentious rule means, in practice, that though the PSOE has been defeated in the Andalusian elections of March 25, the winner – the Popular Party – will not be allowed to govern, because the PSOE will form a pact with the Communists of Izquierda Unida. If this is democratic, I am a man from Mars.
Having said that, I am reminded by my lady that there is a third reason for Spain’s undemocratic condition: the turn-out of voters at local or national elections. If only fifty-two percent of the enfranchised bother to vote, the results are false. Forty-eight percent of voters not bothering to vote are just too many to make the claim that Spain is a democracy. It may be that if ALL voters had bothered to get out and vote that either the PSOE or the PP would have won with a tremendous majority. I could not care less, though I suspect that the people of Andalucía do – or should do. The PSOE has ruled this region (the largest in the country) for more than thirty years. That alone is undemocratic. No single party should be allowed to rule a region for more than eight years. If they are permitted more, it means the party has somehow managed to buy the vote. Surely even the dumbest political commentator can see that.
On another point, having nothing to do with the above: I read in the newspaper ABC that Queen Elizabeth II ‘was educated by professors from Eton’ as a child. There are no ‘professors’ at Eton. They are called ‘masters’. The problem lies in the hoary old shape of bad translations. A ‘professor’ in English is ‘catedrático’ in Spanish – someone with a Philosophy degree who lectures in an university. But a schoolmaster, schoolmistress, or teacher at a Spanish school is called ‘profesor’ or ‘profesora’ according to gender.