Madrid-based writer William Chislett looks at the uncertain political, economic and social situation in Spain. Two upstart parties, the far-left Podemos and the centrist Ciudadanos, ended in December 2015 the stable two-party system of the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the centre-left Socialists that alternated in power for more than 30 years. Two, perhaps three, elections had to be held to break political deadlock and form a new government.
Podemos and Ciudadanos channelled public anger at a long succession of corruption scandals, the colonization of state institutions by politicians, the lack of transparency and the economic and social impact of the recession. The road ahead is a bumpy one.
The economy is out of a prolonged recession, triggered by the bursting of a massive property bubble, thanks, among other things, to buoyant tourism, but the jobless rate is still 20% and the gap between rich and poor has widened. The ageing population and high unemployment are eroding the viability of a pensions system that needs urgent reform, and after years of austerity the country still has a budget deficit that breaches European Union rules.
The government of Catalonia, a dynamic region with more inhabitants than Denmark, remains locked in a struggle with the central government to set up its own state and secede from Spain. Defusing the independence movement is a complex challenge.
William Chislett has lived in Spain since 1986. He covered the country’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London. He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain’s main think tank whose honorary president is King Felipe, which has published four books of his on the country. Oxford University Press published in 2013 his book on Spain in their well-known “What Everyone Needs to Know” series. www.williamchislett.com