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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Do nothing

It falls to the Socialists in opposition to bring Spanish politics into line with society’s clamor for change

Josep Ramoneda

The regime is falling to pieces before our eyes, and the political elites pretend not to have noticed. The stagnant do-nothing policy of our two major political parties is in sharp contrast with the dynamism of a society that is on the move, busily reinventing itself to cope with a widening social rift and the impoverishment generated by austerity policies. Household income has fallen to the lowest levels since the beginning of the crisis, while the government, in tune with a procession of top businessmen, proclaims that the lean years are coming to an end.

Just now when the monarchy's prestige is at an all-time low, the king in his Christmas speech announces that he will wear the crown until he dies with his boots on. Our government, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), still trusts to the passage of time to smooth out all problems, but has nothing to say to us about the widening gap between rich and poor that has developed out of the economic crisis, and fills in the vacuum left by the absence of any sort of modernizing message with what is essentially a return to National-Catholic tradition. In Barcelona the foreign minister, Margallo, voices his concern about the growth of the extreme right and populism in various countries of the European Union. Why doesn't he address this message to the members of his own party? Or could it be that his party's proposed new abortion law, which is so regressive as to attract surprised attention in France and favorable comment from the extreme right there (Le Pen), and his party's repressive draft Citizens Safety Law, are not in the line of the extreme right?

Meanwhile, what is supposed to be our progressive alternative to the PP, the Socialist Party (PSOE), has spent the last two years talking about an overhaul of its party structure, without giving a single serious signal of change, thus proving itself to be a bona fide exponent of European social-democracy — which, with its allergy to risk, is earning a name as the party of fear, all over Europe.

With its allergy to risk, social-democracy is earning a name as the party of fear, all over Europe

In this atmosphere of immobilism, a whole spate of more or less important elections is on the way. In May there will be elections to the European Parliament. And the two major parties fear that the voters will treat these as the elections where the slogan "they don't represent us" reaps its bloodiest revenge. On November 9 Catalonia will vote, whatever happens, because the Catalan premier, Mas, has said that if the national government prohibits the secession referendum, he will call early elections. In 2015 there will be municipal elections across Spain and, at the end of that year, legislative ones. The general interest and the interests of parties will repeatedly collide head on, in electoral contests overloaded with added factors.

However, with the exception of the secessionist challenge in Catalonia, there is no real novelty in Spanish politics. Is it really possible that political debate in Spain can have shrunk to no more than the issue of Catalan secessionism, and the conservative restoration of the PP? In lieu of anything better, the rebellion of some mayors and regional premiers of the PP against the Rajoy-Gallardón abortion law might seem to be a sign of hope: those who are closer to the street are warning the government that it is living in another world. But Spanish political parties are extremely hierarchical, and the rebellion will soon peter out. No, it is the opposition that must stir from its lethargy. It is not enough to combat the atrocity that is the proposed abortion law. The Socialist Party has to put fear behind it, find within itself the capacity to propose a differentiated, meaningful political plan of what to do — however galling this may be to the powers that be, economic or military. Immobilism leads inexorably to irrelevance.

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