EDITOR’S BLOG: Will the Three Horsewomen Defy the Apocalypse?

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If there’s one thing Guidepost, Spain’s oldest existing publication in English, has learned all these years, it is that it can’t live in a vacuum. It has actually lived to the fullest what’s going on around the country, sometimes as a major actor, at other times as an observer from the sidelines.
Here’s the Spanish political panorama dominated at the moment by three incredible women and seen eagle-eyed from the vantage point of the Guidepost “observatory”.

 

By Rose Maramba

It’s unusual for Spain to be holding elections at all levels of political life – municipal, regional and national – within the year. But that’s what’s going to happen in 2015 and many here are reading something dire into it. They say that the elections will mark the end of the two-party system that has brought stable governance to the country since democracy was restored after the death of Generalissimo Franco in 1975. Doomsday soothsayers are predicting an atomized parliament riddled with political parties of all sizes and shapes, raising the specter of successive giddy Italianate governments.

The Spanish parliament during the recent State of the Nation debate,  Pending the upcoming elections, the conservative PP enjoys an absolute parliamentary majority.

The Spanish Parliament during the recent State of the Nation debate. Pending the upcoming national elections, the conservative PP enjoys an absolute parliamentary majority.

However, the opposite view is that, with the emergence of the new small parties led by untried and at times seemingly incoherent charismatic young leaders, fresh air is being breathed into the fetid atmosphere of a politico-financial system infested by widespread corruption.

In the past the mainstream Socialist (PSOE) and the Conservative (PP) Parties were alternately voted into office, creating a fairly reassuring pattern in the political life of the nation. This time around neither will win enough parliamentary seats to form a central government without having to resort to a coalition with one or more of the small emerging parties. If there is any sure formula for political chaos, this is it.

Susan Diaz delivers speech on Day of Andalusia, 28 February

Susan Diaz delivers speech on Day of Andalusia, 28 February

The opinion polls being churned out every other day by reliable and questionable pollsters alike show consistently that PP as well as PSOE will fall far short of achieving the magic 50% + 1 seat mathematical equation for absolute majority. Thus, even before the first of the elections is held this year – the regional election in Andalusia — the results might as well be in. The three PP and PSOE women-candidates are ahead in the race in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region; the capital city of Madrid; and the region of Madrid to which the capital pertains geographically and with which it shares certain common political functions. They are Susana Diaz, the incumbent president of Andalusia; Esperanza Aguirre, president of PP’s Madrid chapter; and Cristina Cifuentes, the central government’s delegate to the city and region of Madrid.

Campaign poster

Campaign poster

All three are lawyers, all are exceptionally ambitious, and politics is central to their lives. The polls have it that all three will garner more votes than their respective rivals but not enough to enable them to govern without the support of the minority parties. The election in Andalusia will be held before the month is out (March 22) while the regional and municipal elections in Madrid are slated for the 24th of May.

To a great extent the outcome of the national election in the fall can be extrapolated in advance from the results of the elections in these three places.

Esperanza Aguirre poses  with PP adherents in one of the neighborhood stores in Madrid

Esperanza Aguirre poses with PP adherents in a neighborhood store

Interestingly, apart from their ideological differences, there is much of their social backgrounds to separate the leftist Diaz from rightists Aguirre and Cifuentes. Diaz comes from the iconic district of Triana in Seville – one might say the barrio that’s more Andalusian than Andalusia! – with a plumber for a father and a man of indeterminate profession for husband.

Aguirre is a born-and-bred Madrileña with part-British elite schooling, and a noble for a grandfather (Jose Gil de Biedma, Count of Sepulveda and Viscount of Nava de la Asuncion). She’s married to the Count of Bornos who, as Count of Murillo also, is Grandee of Spain. She, her own family, her husband, and his own family, have always lived as the haute bourgeoisie would, being equipped with all the necessary tools to lead such a life.

Aguirre addresses a rally

Aguirre cheers a rally on

The also Madrileña Cifuentes had no less than a general for a father, and an architect from the well off middle class for a husband who owned a lucrative architectural firm before the prolonged economic crisis sank him.

Diaz is in her early forties; Cifuentes in her early fifties; Aguirre is 63. All are blonde and good to look at.

Cristina Cifuentes addressing a plenary session of the Madrid assemby (Cristina Alvarez, PD)

Cristina Cifuentes addressing a plenary session of the Madrid assemby (Cristina Alvarez, PD)

By now all three will have launched themselves full tilt onto the campaign trail, determined to prove the polls wrong; if their efforts paid off, they will achieve the elusive absolute majority in the municipal and regional assemblies and be able to implement their respective ideological programs unimpeded by the parties in the opposition.

Should these three extraordinary women achieve the improbable, they would inspire the electorate of the later elections to vote against political fragmentation. Could they? More to the point, will the achievement of that miracle be good for Spain? There are those who assert that absolute majority is the root of corruption.

Cifuentes' favorite photo. She uploaded it on Twitter. The Tweet:  "I love you [, dad,] and will always love you, more now that you're gone"

Cifuentes’ favorite photo. She uploaded it on Twitter. The Tweet: “I love you [, dad,] and will always love you.” The retired general, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for years, passed on recently.

Has the country been reduced to the mean choice between chaos and corruption? Spain is certainly a country of extremes – but also a kingdom that is able to pull itself short of the fatal fall and make stunning headways in the right direction.

The admirable political transition from a four-decade of rancid dictatorship to a vibrant democracy, from international pariah to a respected member of the European Union, is cause for hope as the country faces stark choices this year of crucial elections.

 

 

 

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Images

Featured image: “Cavalieres” by Hanz Hein, uploaded by Kilom691:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kilom691 , PD,  cropped

Susana Diaz: Facebook

Esperanza Aguirre: https://plus.google.com/+EsperanzaAguirre/photos

Cristina Cifuentes: Twitter

 

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UPDATE 
The Socialist Party (PSOE) bagged 47 of the 109 regional parliamentary seats in the Andalusian elections last 22 March 2015. The center-right Popular Party, the Socialists’ closest rival, won 33 seats whereas the populist Podemos, who had hopes of coming out second most-voted — even the winner — came out third with an unsatisfactory 15 seats.
Far from creating a chaotic regional parliament, it is quite possible that Susana Diaz, PSOE’s candidate for the presidency of Andalusia, could form a viable government where she will have to negotiate with the other political parties with representation in the regional parliament to be able to pass key bills.