Saturday 21 May 2011

Spanish Elections and Protests

Well, the world ended, but we're still here and life goes on.

And today Sunday 22nd of May is election day in Spain.

Since last week tens of thousands of protesters, mostly young, are encamped at Madrid's historical Puerta del Sol, and some 50 other locations around Spain, plus a number of other European cities (see here, in Spanish).

According to the selective information provided this morning by Sky News:
"Tens of thousands of Spaniards angry over high unemployment rates have taken to the streets in a seventh day of protests before Sunday's local elections."
And indeed, according to Deutsche Welle, Spaniards young and old have every right to be angry over high unemployment rates:
"As [the] ban came into force at midnight, some 25,000 protesters in Madrid's Puerta del Sol Square began to whistle and cheer, shouting 'now we are all illegal.'
"But in spite of the apparent festivities, the predominantly young crowd clearly expressed their frustrations.
"The economic crisis pushed Spain's unemployment rate to 21.19% in the first quarter of this year, the highest figure in the industrialized world. In February unemployment for under-25s, stood at 44.6%."
So angry they are, that they declared themselves in civil disobedience, de facto if not formally, as hinted above.

You see, in Spain, as is often the case in other countries, there is a legal ban on political manifestations and publicity during the days immediately preceding an election.

"Faced with growing criticism of the two-party system and claims that neither the ruling Socialists nor the opposition Popular Party (PP) truly represent the people" (see here), the initial reaction of deputy PM Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (with support from Mariano Rajoy, leader of the conservative so-called Popular Party) was to order Madrid police to disband the initial groups of protesters.

After initial tensions, and widespread support for the protesters, the Government decided to allow the protests:
"Police walk past but do not intervene. They are cheered by the crowd, in scenes hauntingly similar to anti-government protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square during Egypt's revolution in February." (See here)
What Sky News and Deutsche Welle didn't quite say is that Spaniards are angry over other things, as well.

According to El País, the protesters demand (in Spanish here, and this is my translation and summary):
  1. Abolition of unjust laws.
  2. Divided support for a (1) republican referendum or (2) direct transition to a Republic.
  3. Tax reforms: progressive taxation and a Tobin Tax; rescued banks nationalization.
  4. Transport: to promote public transportation.
  5. Reform of politicians' working conditions: abolition of life-time earnings, politicians' performance revision and auditing, purge of electoral lists of those accused of corruption.
  6. Complete Church-State separation and division of public powers.
  7. Direct and participative democracy: political power decentralization; operation of citizens' assemblies.
  8. Industrial relations improvement and regulation, euro 1,200 minimum wage, a State job guarantee and equal wages.
  9. Environment: immediate closure of nuclear power plants and support for sustainable economy.
  10. Recovery of privatized public enterprises.
  11. Military: Defense spending cuts, closure of weapons factories, non-intervention in foreign conflicts.
  12. Historical memory recovery: condemnation of Francoism.
A little more that anger at being unemployed, I'd say.

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