Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Chris Huhne and Spanish Politics - A Rant (You have been warned!)

On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be much, if any connection. However, if we examine things a bit more closely,  it is the divergences that are more interesting.

We all know the story of Mr. Huhne persuading his then wife to take his speeding points on her licence, her subsequent revelation of the fact, his outright denial and then finally on the eve of his trial for perverting the course of Justice, his admission of guilt (saving the taxpayer, as well as himself, the expense of a trial) and his resignation as an MP. It has taken him 10 years to get this far, but at least in the end he came clean and did the honourable thing. He has not been sentenced yet, but it is highly likely that he will be sent down.

Now let's jump to Spain where resignation is a word that politicians do not understand even in Spanish (dimisión). There are so many scandals in Spanish political life at a local, regional, national and now, apparently, at central government level that I cannot be bothered to describe them, but here are a few links in English for you to look at: BárcenasGürtel and Urdangarín - the King's son-in-law. And here's one in Spanish about a pensions and redundancy pay scam in Andalusia Party officials accept bribes on behalf of parties of every hue and skim off a bit of  cash, be it public or private, for their trouble - we're talking about millions of euros in a country that pays its unemployed nothing after 2 years and where some pensioners struggle to survive on a €400 monthly state pension.

It is not unusual for political parties to get low-interest loans from the banks and and then have the debt miraculously waived. I wonder why. Hmmm.

For years it has been my opinion  that democracy doesn't exist in Spain - the electorate just has the right to vote once every four years. The political classes meanwhile are answerable to no-one, certainly not to the citizens who are still voting according to which side their grandparents or great grandparents were on in the Civil War about which, incidentally, they know hardly anything because History is almost as dirty a word as resignation. In the villages they may know nothing about History, but everyone remembers who shot whose relatives and this still influences voting habits.

It's incredible, but the PSOE, the ruling Socialist party in the Andalusian Regional Government has been in power since the first elections to the regional parliament shrugging off scandal after scandal and wasting taxpayers' money on luxuries and self-aggrandisement.

In its fiefdoms, the right-wing PP is just as bad, as is the communist IU in its own areas. To give an example of the level of the parties' profligacy in regional government, until recently there were more official cars at the disposal of elected politicians and their hangers-on than there were official cars in the whole of the USA!

Now it turns out that, according to some sources, under-the-table payments go right the way to the top in the national PP government. The PSOE and other opposition parties are raucously demanding resignations and elections - demands that are falling on deaf ears -ears every bit as deaf as theirs were and are to their own scandals.

In a recent article, a Spanish author pointed out that the political parties always point the finger outside their party and never turn and look at the moral decay within their own political organisation. Greed and self-interest are the name of the game.

Spanish politics has never really been democratic. The electorate don't vote for a candidate, they vote for a closed list covering an area that returns several councillors, regional or national MPs or MEPs. Even if someone were to, gulp, resign they are immediately replaced by the next candidate on the list who hadn't been elected on voting day. Voters are, therefore, denied the chance to change their opinion in by-elections  and send the government a message because by-elections quite simply don't exist.

As a non-Spanish resident, I cannot vote in general elections, even though I pay taxes in Spain, but then again, why bother? The system has been designed to serve the interests of the political classes, not the people who vote for them - including quite a few of the 6 million unemployed.

1 comment:

  1. I think that in most countries, once you lift the lid off the political system you find something resembling a can of worms, though I accept that Spain is perhaps a particularly bad case.

    To my mind, Huhne exemplifies a truth about politics. (I don't regard his admission as "honourable" but as merely pragmatic: he knew he had been rumbled and so decided to salvage what little he could.) That truth is that the first duty of a politician, as he or she sees it, is to preserve his or her own political life and second to that, the life of his or her party.

    The fact is that most people despise politics and have as little to do with it as possible (even to the point of not voting). This means that we have what you rightly call a "political class" which, like the police or the priesthood, stands apart from the rest of society and develops its own interests and needs and probably despises those who are not fellow members. (Read police blogs and see how arrogantly and dismissively many of them talk about the public and how mealy mouthed they are about police misbehaviour.)

    The adage that a nation gets the government it deserves has at least a seed of truth in its heart. If we despise politicians, it's not so surprising that they despise us in return. If we are not prepared to join the fray, then we are stuck with the situation.