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Marta Fernandez Maeso Headshot

Will The Spanish Election Bring A Revolution?

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The November 20th national election in Spain brings a new actor. There are social movements that did not exist before and they are related to a bad economic situation in the country (linked to the unemployment record -- 21 percent rate -- and the euro's crisis). This is a new panorama different from previous elections in more than thirty years of democracy. How can this phenomenon influence in the results?

The Popular Party and the Socialist Party, the traditional parties, are not the only actors in this election. The 15-M movement, also known as Spanish Revolution or "Los Indignados" (Spanish for "The Outraged"), had become one of the main point of interest. Its principal argument is to criticize the current operation of the democracy. Their members consider that the economy has taken control over the political system. "We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers" is one of its principal slogans.

They do not make rules about how to vote, but their influence can be seen in the ballots. The Spanish Revolution does not support any party, but they do discuss how to carry their discomfort and criticism to the election. In this group there are abstainers, supporters of the protest vote and followers of the minor parties. Even though they are not running for office, they are part of the campaign. "Los Indignados" have designed election posters, with the aesthetics of Obama's pictures for the 2004 election, with bankers' photographs. The goal is telling people that they are really voting for them instead of politicians.

The Spanish Revolution is an unprecedented movement in this country. It started on May 15th and it had a heterogeneous platform of followers composed by people from different profiles, ages and a base in the middle class. The movement began just one week before the regional election day (May 22nd) and even when the protest votes increased in a significant way (nationwide record), it is not clear if it had an important impact on the votes turn out. But it surely made the voters think about the issues that launched the protests.

Spain was a pioneer in the way people showed their disagreement through the occupation of iconic places like Puerta del Sol (Madrid's main square) during the May campaign, that later inspired protests in other parts of the world like Occupy Wall Street. The October 15th demonstrations had a strong support in Spain and it showed that the movement is still alive.

Prior to the start of the next campaign, the Electoral Board of Madrid announced that citizens will not be able to protest in any square and street of the nation's capital 15 days before the election. However, members of the Spanish Revolution are planning demonstrations for November 11st and 13rd and they expect a massive support driven by the ban.

The call for these protests is mainly communicated through social networks and Internet, which has been one of the most important tools in this movement. Another strategy for sharing ideas is the public assembly in which each participant expresses his opinion about an issue, a system that appeals to the citizen participation because each argument has a strong value in the group decision process.

It seems clear that the Spanish Revolution is not going to directly influence the election. All the polls point to a clear victory of the Popular Party, the conservatives who are now in the opposition. The ruling party, the Socialist, which has been badly worn by the crisis and its management, only aims to alleviate the catastrophic loss that is expected.

The Spanish Revolution has a left-wing base, but it does not identify itself with any party. In this it differs from Occupy Wall Street, which has already opted for the Democrats and has even begun to raise funds. At most, "Los Indignados" can harm traditional left parties, particularly the Socialists, which is considered to have betrayed its ideology by cutting social programs, but also by agreeing a reform of the Constitution with the Popular Party.

What the Spanish Revolution poses is a change in the democratic system. Democracia Real Ya (Spanish for Real Democracy Now), the organization that promoted the first manifestation, works currently in an innovative proposal: Democracia 4.0. They intend to increase citizen participation in politics through technology, like voting Congress initiatives over the Internet.

If the movement strives to stay away from the traditional parties, which are backed by the majority of citizens (61 percent voted for a party in the last election), it is doubtful that the Spanish Revolution can make their proposals work. Another recurring criticism is its difficulty to define specific measures. Most experts say that the Spanish Revolution will be dissolved, but before this happens, they will be able to prepare the field for fundamental changes aimed at improving citizen representation and limiting the excesses of the political and economic systems.

Sonia Corona and Marta Fernandez Maeso are students at UAM-El País Journalism School