A Canadian resident in Valencia examines the Spanish political system.
Spanish elections have just come and gone. It is the largest farce of a democracy you can imagine and the absolutely stupidest display I have ever seen. It took over 10 years living here to finally get my head around this bizarre version of democracy. There is a party system, but it is set up so that people can only vote for parties, not individuals. So it is more like supporting your favorite sports franchise than real democracy.
This means that not a single person in the government, opposition or even a marginal party, have EVER been directly chosen for office. If your team is popular, then you win (and everyone on the team, no matter how useless, also wins). Sometimes a party will try and put a few handsome or quasi-popular faces on posters, and the party leader (chosen from within the party) gets to be president, but no one is actually elected directly, so it is only “democracy” on the thinnest surface and would probably be far more accurately described as an “old boys club”.
So how does one become a politician? You only have to make friends with people in the party. If they are all dickheads, and you are also a dickhead, then you are all set. It doesn’t matter at all if the voters don’t like YOU as a candidate because the voters don’t get to choose who is in the party…at all. Since politicians get great salaries (if they belong to the winning party), and once you are in, you can stay in as long as you want providing the other dickheads don´t kick you out, then this type of job naturally attracts a lot of dickheads. Only the president of the country has a limit on his time in office (I guess to somehow try and mimic other democracies in the world?), at which point the next guy in line (usually the VP) steps in. And so on, and so on…
This also means that if I form my own small party, like PODEMOS has done on the fame and rhetoric of a single individual (Pablo Iglesias), then I can invite all my friends into my party or whoever the hell I want (as PODEMOS has), and if we win, we are in charge of things. This seems so obviously a bad idea I can´t believe it was set up like this after breaking free from fascism in the 70´s when Franco died and the regime ended.
But the problem is even worse than this because then if PODEMOS, for example, is created as a party on other levels of government (provincial and local), there is very little to stop any dickheads from swarming in to join the party and ruin things for everybody again. That´s because the PODEMOS party on the local or provincial level, is full of a bunch of guys who are NOT Pablo Iglesias, but they get elected on the fame and work of the party image. This type of system is impossible to self-regulate and the result is a sense of “entitlement” for those who manage to get into power.
The funny thing is, the main “established” parties like the PP and PSOE use that very criticism of PODEMOS…that they are just a little group of friends and thugs with no knowledge or experience…when it also describes themselves perfectly as well. Just because they are large and established in the minds of people for generations and saturated at all levels of government, it makes them seem more serious or better equipped to deal with running things, but they are still just another group of friends getting elected on the image of the party. And the only way to get into their party is to become friends with them.
Of course, the politicians then have the main objective of advancing the party itself rather than paying attention to representing and improving the lives of the citizens. Every move is calculated to augment the image of the party in the eyes of the citizen and destroy the competition.
And if there is a particularly bad person in office (like a mayor or city councilor), and they do a horrible job…you can’t just vote those people out because they are just part of the party and the citizens can’t choose individuals. You might try to vote for a marginal party, but a.) You have the same problem (more dickheads) and b.) The most popular/established party with the original dickheads will probably win anyway, because people in general continue to vote the same way for years.
Parties are seen as representing a list of “ideals” for voters to identify with. So people don´t think about the individuals involved (except for top leaders) but keep voting for the party that most reflects their ideals…what else can you do? There are no other alternatives for you. I guess the closest comparison for “values” would be that the PP are a relaxed version of the Republicans in the USA, and the PSOE are a totally wussy version of the Democrats. All the other parties are formed mostly out of being pissed at the two bigshots and wanting to change things…but if they get into power, the system itself allows more dickheads to jump on the bandwagon and screw things up again. This also means that people vote the same party again and again because they are only presented with a few ridiculous choices of ideals…not anybody directly accountable to do a job. If I am a total dickhead beyond compare, but belong to a popular political party, I can do a lot of bad things and coast a long way in spite of the fact that everybody hates me. What are you going to do about that average citizen? Nothing!
The worst part is that decent, honest, intelligent, educated people (of which there are many and who would be the best people for the job) don´t want to come anywhere near this garbage pit called “Spanish Politics” because of the dirty, underhanded nature of the people who are already working in it. In this sense, it is much more of a mafia of power than a government system.
I’ve heard many Spanish people say “we are stupid, we keep voting the same crooks into office”, but the system is set up from the very beginning so that there is no choice on which crooks belong to which team. Even a new party like PODEMOS is just a group of people who think the same way, but they won´t be able to operate or regulate properly with this kind of system and will eventually be torn apart internally by new infiltrated dickhead members attracted to power. Perhaps you feel the word “dickhead” has been overused somewhat in this article, but I would say that is hasn´t been used nearly enough.
Until a marginal party manages to win (because the established parties would never EVER do this) and then completely dissolves the current system to create a new one where individuals need to be voted into their positions of power and are held accountable for actions taken, there is no escape for Spain from its corrupt leaders and flawed, self-serving system.
There is some hope, however, on the local level. Even though you are restricted to party voting, here, at least, you can judge the people as individuals since you can know them by hearing them speak or by talking to them personally. Getting to know the candidates, especially the leaders in the different parties and what they actually DO or HAVE DONE can sometimes shake people free from simply voting according to party-line ideals. What kind of people are you voting for when you cast that ballot? It is on this level that political ideals mean little and actual civic responsibility and government for the people, by the people has a chance to take hold. There are many new independent municipal level parties around Spain that have seen this success, and many small parties seriously dedicated to making a change, but in the end it all depends on the voter.
The best thing anyone can do is go out there and try and choose knowledgeable, local candidates who stand for fairness, justice and real municipal issues, and vote for their party in your next local election.
This article was originally posted here: http://www.move-campturia.es/2015/05/spanish-people-are-not-stupid.html