Huffpost WorldPost
Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort Headshot

The Truth About Spain's Politics

Posted: Updated:

The political landscape in Europe is not exciting. Right-wing leaders in France and Italy or left-wing leaders in Spain lack the leadership, communication skills and charisma of the statists of the 1980s and early 1990s that drove towards monetary union and the ambitious expansion to Eastern Europe.

The picture is not pretty in Spain either. Left-wing premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his all-time worst team of companions have accelerated the shift towards a lost decade, where Spain and Spaniards will remain with double-figure unemployment, economic stagnation and a perennial mediocracy.

Right-wing leader Mariano Rajoy does not represent an exciting alternative for disenchanted Spaniards, who are abandoning politics en-masse. Rajoy has barely been capable of maintaining rule and order within his party's very own ranks, with half the regional leaders immersed in corruption scandals and his increasingly inability to control the fiasco of the party's regional leadership.

What alternatives lie ahead for the 2012 general elections? There might be none. Josep Duran i Lleida, the moderate Catalan nationalist leader who heads Convergencia i Union in the Madrid-based National Parliament, might be the most-admired politician in a country in desperate need of discovering new leadership. But the barriers of entry into politics have been set extremely high by a mediocre political elite that is used to embracing insult and vulgarity, approaching the caciquisim of early twentieth-century politics.

Spaniards are in the meantime afraid, asleep, unable to mobilize, and accustomed to delegating the average citizen's duties to a group of representatives who no longer defend the national interest. The policy-making process is extremely biased by the interference of right-wing and left-wing politicians, who claim they support certain policies simply based on their political affiliation. We have forgotten the constructive discussion, the healthy debate, the moderate use of the word. We are hostages of a political elite that is well aware of their undeserved privileges and which, as a result, maintains a discourse that scares any potential alternatives from consolidation.

Spain is nowadays a country with twenty-percent unemployment; an informal economy amounting to one fifth of its GDP; an overlap of local, regional and national administrations; one of Europe's worst educational achievement rates; Europe's worst university-system; an already disappearing industrial sector that is migrating to cheaper destinations; and a less and less competitive tourism sector that is facing fierce competition from Northern Africa, Turkey, Cyprus or Croatia.

It's a country with old-fashioned trade unions and entrepreneurs that continue to fight endless debates. Spain is today a country where citizens are quick to complain, but do not suggest constructive forward-looking alternatives. It is perhaps the legacy of forty-years of dictatorship that removed any entrepreneurship spirit from the average Spaniard. It is perhaps the resignation associated to countries of Catholic tradition. It is perhaps the inability to leave the culture of equality and non-differentiation, driven by envy and accentuated by an incapable Socialist-party where improvisation reigns. An afraid-driven, confidence-lacking society has been thus far unable to react and displace a disastrous political elite that is reluctant to embrace accountability, transparency, internal democracy.

I must admit, the current European landscape is not promising. We miss the great leadership of the 1950s and 1960s. We are missing the Glorious Thirty. We are hostages of an involution process driven by the baby-boomers who are afraid of losing some privileges unfairly earned and thus not deserved. We are hostages of welfare systems that ought to be redefined. We are leaning too much towards the rights side of the balance. We have forgotten that we also have obligations.

The reality of Spain's politics is that we have a Premier who has never worked in the private sector, has a rather low knowledge of economics in a country that has been economically hard-hit, is unable to speak a foreign language and accustomed to improvisation. The reality of Spain's politics is that we have an opposition leader that has lost two consecutive elections and, yet, is reluctant to abandon and open up a primaries process where younger leaders could aspire to becoming party leaders.

The reality of Spain's politics is that the Socialist party is anchored to the trade unions, and hostages thereof. The reality of Spain's politics is that the conservatives continue to maintain an old-fashioned rhetoric that claims for itself the legitimacy of defending national unity and embracing patriotism, keeping close links to a Catholic church in a country where politics intermingle and interfere with the judiciary, the regulatory bodies and the economy.

There is no separation of powers. Intrusion is the day-to-day reality. There is no transparency, no independence. There is not enough legitimacy to drive Spain into the next stage of political, societal and economic development of a twenty-first century world, one very different from that of the 1940s and 1950s. We are losing faith in our leaders. We are on the verge of Almodovar's nervous breakdown. We are not far from a rupturist episode between an inexistent civil society and a political elite unable and unwilling to move forward.

We are unable to recuperate the regenerationist cries of our respected nineteenth and twentieth century economists, politicians and historians. We forgot to embrace the vision of Joaquín Costa and José Ortega y Gasset. We did not learn the lessons that kept the country away from the French Revolution, the Illustration and the Glorious Thirty. We are no longer two Spains, divided, yet our old-fashioned political elites maintain a division that feeds their pockets with taxpayer money.

I am ashamed by those who claim to be our political leaders, by the lack of ambition of a civil society that remains asleep, by our collective inability to foster the emergence of new paradigms. Yet I remain in love with a country full of pragmatism, aware of its strengths and weaknesses, gifted with creativity and resilience, nurtured by its beauty, gastronomy, cultural diversity and friendship, in possession of a loving heart. Where shall thou go, beloved Spain? Who shall drive you to more prosperous times? Whence shall thou awake from your particular dream? To dream or not to dream, that is the question.