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Changing the World From Spain

Posted: 11/07/11 10:41 AM ET

A political party named Equo has just been born in Spain. Not that big a deal, some might say. But in the current democratic landscape, where two parties -- the center-left wing PSOE (in office for the last 8 years) and the right wing PP (probable winners of the November 20 election) -- together hold 323 out of 350 seats in Parliament, the rise of fresh alternatives becomes indeed a matter of importance. And Equo bursts in with radically different approaches aiming to reset the game. Their proposals include green economic initiatives, socially focused and permeable decision making processes and horizontally structured political hierarchies. They only want to change the world, starting from Spain.

This doesn't mean that Equo is the only alternative to bipartisanism. Parties like the ideologically similar IU (a melting pot of left-wing ideologies merged in 1986) or UPyD (a centrist party founded in 2007) currently count with 2 and 1 seats in Parliament, respectively. Both could have a higher representation if it weren't for the clearly unbalanced electoral system, which favours the larger parties. Besides, in the different Spanish autonomous communities (a sort of federal states with a different level of independence) there are plenty of local political parties. In autonomous communities like Catalonia or the Basque Country, some of the nationalist parties have very important backing locally and also some voice at the national level (The Catalan CiU have 10 seats in Parliament and the Basque PNV, 6).

For the upcoming election, Equo's goal is to get at least one seat, which means that we are still far from an Equo-governed Spain. In such a Spain the social cuts would be reduced to the minimum. An army of tax inspectors would fight corruption and tax evasion, the only war in which the country would participate. The banking system would be public, and the people would have a greater say in the decisions the party makes. By 2020, the eight Spanish nuclear plants would be closed and replaced by renewable energies, a source not only of electricity but also of plenty of new, qualified jobs. The consumerist, exploitative capitalist model would be replaced. With what, is another question, although it would be exciting to know the answer. Leading the way of change stands Juan López de Uralde, former director of Greenpeace in Spain, who was chosen as Equo's presidential candidate by the members and supporters of the party (what they call the "Equomunidad", or "Equommunity", of 9000 people) in an open election over the Internet.

In only one year since it was created as a foundation, Equo has managed to gather enough support to run for presidency in 38 out of the 52 Spanish provinces (further divisions of the autonomous communities). For that, they had to collect the signatures of at least 0.1% of the electorate in each of those provinces, a new measure imposed to parties without previous representation in Parliament. In another five provinces they will run alongside other ideologically related parties accounting, in total, for 82.7% of Spanish territory. In order to be able to get free advertising space in the public national television, it is necessary to take part in the election in at least 75% of the country. Equo, nonetheless, has been refused that right, as the national electoral board argues that the five provinces where they run in coalition cannot be taken into account. In response, Equo talks of censorship.

Although the prospects for Equo don't seem particularly promising, their being a new party and accessing the government is itself a great accomplishment. This surprising entrance into politics is probably twinned to the emergence of a new state of mind in Spain, materialized in social movements like the 15-M (or the Outraged movement), that feel the established system does not respond to people's needs anymore. And in line with one of the most chanted slogans of the protesters, at Equo they acknowledge that they are going slowly. But that's because they are going far.