More of the same
By this time next week it will all be over and the political pundits will be having a heyday analysing as to why which party won or lost. Opinion polls suggest it could be a pretty close run thing but there is very little chance that the main opposition party, the Partido Popular, will get back into power. To do that, it will need to win 176 seats – half plus one of the 350 in Parliament. Even if it wins one or two more than the Socialist Party, the latter has more allies in Parliament and will be able to cobble together a coalition, so it will be more of the same for the next four years. The first debate between the Prime Minister and opposition leader Mariano Rajoy televised live on February 25th turned out to be more or less a replay of their behaviour in Parliament since 2004. Both parties claimed a resounding victory but for those of the 13 million or so viewers who are not convinced followers of either party, it was a fairly dull affair, although Rajoy managed to rattle Zapatero’s cage on several issues. Towards the end, the PM tried to interrupt him three or four times, which was strictly against the ground rules laid down by both parties prior to the debate. Rajoy came across as the more sincere of the two, but Zapatero is more telegenic. He’s also good at hiding his feelings. He’s either grinning his head off – although his eyes often belie his lips – or looking terribly serious and earnest. During the debate he wore the latter expression. In fact, the debate merely underlined what many people already knew – that these two men genuinely dislike each other. No doubt a similar number of viewers will watch the second debate on March 3rd which will probably be more of the same. Meanwhile Zapatero continues trying to scare people into voting for the Socialists, calling on them to choose between a government “to believe in” or one “to be feared”. Former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez followed the same line, comparing the Partido Popular to the Inquisition for promising to introduce a contract for immigrants. He also called Rajoy an imbecile for claiming to be more moderate than Zapatero. Meanwhile, gay leader Pedro Zerolo, the Socialist Party’s Social Movements Secretary, said that if the PP wins the next election “it would be so bad we could even lose our husbands”. During the debate, Rajoy said it was “immoral” to suggest the PP is against same-sex marriage because there are homosexuals in the PP just as in any other sector of society. Junta de Andalucia President Manuel Chaves, up for re-election on March 9th, has also had a couple of barbs thrown at him. He accused the PP of being “viejos” (literally old men but probably meaning old hat in this case). His main rival, the PP’s Javier Arenas, retorted: “He calls us old, when he’s the longest serving governor in Spain”. Chaves was once one of the regional presidents who had spent the least time in power but all the longest-serving ones have either been defeated at the polls or retired in the past four years, making him the “oldest” one today. Arenas also pointed out that while Chaves calls the PP old, he nevertheless urges people to vote for him “for their parents and grandparents” while he urges people to vote PP “for their children and grandchildren”. Chaves, who is running for the sixth time, is reminding people of the days when Andalucia was a rich man’s paradise and a poor man’s hell. It can’t be denied that the Socialists – and tourism – have done a lot to improve the lives of the Andalucians, but Chaves is long past his due date, according to former Socialist Rosa Diez who compared him and the Socialist Party to yoghurts in an interview last week. Diez, who is a Basque, was a European MP for the Socialist Party but fell out with Zapatero over his peace process with the Basque terrorist group ETA. She is now running for Parliament as the leader of the party she founded early last year, the Progress and Democracy Union (UP&D). But the most amazing statement so far in this election campaign came from Raúl Font, the candidate for the moderate Catalan Convergencia y Union (CiU) nationalist party in Tarragona. When Zapatero is looking for allies to form a government after March 9th he’ll probably settle for the CiU rather than repeat his unhappy experience with the radical Catalan Republican Left party (ERC) but even so, it came as a shock to read what Font said during an interview last week: “The CiU is a girl willing to jump into bed with whomever.” You can’t express your eagerness to prostitute yourself politically much clearer than that!