Unsettled election, unsettled history

Andalucian president Susana Diaz continues to try to govern alone after failing to secure a majority in last month’s regional election, in spite of winning the same number of seats as in 2012. Her Socialist party (PSOE) is eight seats short of what it needs to avoid having to negotiate with other parties to pass every piece of legislation.

Anti-austerity, anti-corruption party Podemos, which secured 15 seats, is hardly coalition material for a ruling party that is following an austerity agenda and has three former ministers suspected of involvement in a billion euro fraud case. And the other newcomer to Spanish politics – the right wing Ciudadanos (Citizens), which won nine seats – has also ruled out a formal alliance, even with the conservative Popular Party (PP), which came second but lost 17 seats.

The Spanish media continues to predict that Podemos could hold the balance of power after the general election in November. But given that the Andalucian vote, especially the collapse in the vote of PP (the party of national government), is seen as a strong gauge of the outcome, it is difficult to envisage what sort of coalition Podemos might be a part of.

Meanwhile, the breakdown of voting in Granada province, and particularly in Las Alpujarras, shines a light on the sides taken in our villages and towns during the Spanish civil war.

The people who work the land here do not consider themselves to be anything other than working class – it is uniquely Spanish anarchism. But the terrible experiences of the civil war are, for many people of the Alpujarras, still painfully recent. Here there are estimated to be as many as 25 mass graves containing the remains of Republican or anarchist villagers who tried to resist Franco’s armed rebels who came up to these mountains from the coast. Towns such as Torvizcon were repeatedly attacked and their inhabitants “disappeared”. Órgiva marked a frontline throughout the war and remains proudly anti-Franco.

With a few exceptions, such as the pristine spa town of Lanjarón which narrowly voted PP – perhaps as much because of the relative wealth of its inhabitants through tourism as that it was Nationalist during the war – this remains a staunchly socialist region. PSOE won the majority of Alpujarran municipalities, with Podemos coming second or third in many. And it is unsurprising that while the United Left (IU), which includes the Communist Party of Spain, lost seven seats in the Andalucian parliament, it had a relatively strong showing in many places here.

Take the tiny pueblo of Cañar, from where our internet signal is beamed. IU achieved 6.8 per cent of the vote – that’s eight people in a village with a population of just a couple of hundred. If only those eight could get their hands on that broadband transmitter…


Nationalistic referendums here and there

As Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy prepares to try to block Catalonia’s independence referendum, set for 9 November, local radio continues with its debates and phone-ins about the significance of the Scottish no vote.

A colleague, discussing an article I was to write about the outcome of the Scottish referendum, asked if I was fully up to speed, living as I now do in rural Spain. Their’s was an incredulous response when I described the wall to wall coverage the issue has had here. Oh, and the continuous playing of bagpipes over the airwaves.

Spain isn’t a federal state, but it does operate a decentralised system of administration. Its autonomous regions and cities have tax raising powers. To a point. When the Catalan government asked, in 2012, for an increase in those powers, it was refused. Many predicted that this would push the wealthy region towards independence.

For Andalucia, Spain’s largest and poorest region, this is effectively a class issue. Perhaps that is why the European elections saw a shift to the left, with Izquierda Unida (United Left), and the new and populist left party Podemos (we can), enjoying a significant upsurge in votes.

But here in Órgiva there appeared to be some confusion about the line to take on the Scottish issue. Graffiti appeared overnight, all over town, calling in big red and black letters for independence for Escocia. And alongside it, in what looked remarkably like the same hand, a demand that the Reino Unido (United Kingdom) remain just that. Alas, I didn’t take pictures. But perhaps the person with the spray paint was the same misguided individual who daubed ‘Goodnight, left side’ on a wall near the Alpujarras supermarket. The slogan of black shirt, jewish, violent neo-nazis was soon painted out. That it now just reads “good night” is rather fitting for our peace loving, hippyish community.