Europe and the
elections in Spain
By Eduardo Dimas
The abominable terrorist
bombings in Madrid on March 11 may go down in Spanish history as the moment of
consciousness of the people, and also as the indirect cause of the defeat of the
Popular Party (PP) and the triumph of the Spanish Socialist Worker Party (SSWP),
which according to many observers has little to do with workers. As most Social
Democratic parties in Europe and the rest of the world, it abandoned the
interests and ideals that gave it its name a long time ago in order to become
another representative of the dominant Spanish class; the only difference is
that its discourse is not so much to the right.
Up to March 10 all polls
gave the PP as eventual winner, with an absolute majority over the SSWP, which
hadn’t been able to recover from the loss of prestige after Felipe González’
stay in power for 14 years. Nevertheless, three days later the PP lost in
disgrace to the SSWP. To many analysts, more than the March 11 bombings that
caused over 200 dead and 1,500 wounded, the direct reason for the PP’s defeat
was its attempt to deceive Spanish and world public opinion, claiming that the
Basque organization ETA was responsible for the bombings, when it was obvious
from the beginning that the MO was similar to the one used by Arab
fundamentalist groups, probably Al Qaeda. Spaniards never forgave Prime
Minister Jose María Aznar – an arrogant and disagreeable politician – his
designated heir Mariano Rajoy, nor the PP.
spite of the event, the SSWP did not win an absolute majority, so it will have
to make alliances with other forces that won seats in Parliament. The PP will
still be a major political force, for it won 140 seats in the Chamber of
Deputies and 102 in the Senate, against 164 and 82, respectively, by the SSWP.
This could mean that voters don’t really trust the SSWP so they’ll have to be
careful in their administration if they want to be an option in Spain’s
question analysts are asking is how far can the SSWP and its president, José
Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, go in keeping the promises that he made to voters
before and after his victory, namely, bringing back home Spanish troops from
Iraq, a closer linkage with the European Union (EU), and several domestic
measures, such as greater regulations on the real estate industry that has
substantially raised prices all over Spain.
announcement that he would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq has caused protests
and pressures on the part of the United States, which sees this as a dangerous
measure for the coalition it created with its main allies to occupy the Middle
East nation. President Bush as well as Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld have
talked about the “message” the terrorists would receive if Spain withdraws from
Iraq after the bombings. And even Democratic Party candidate John Kerry asked
Rodríguez Zapatero to reconsider his decision in the same speech in which he
attacked Bush for not giving U.S. troops all they need for their protection.
Spain withdraws from Iraq it would shatter the axis Washington-London-Madrid,
followed by Rome, which created the never proven claim of Saddam Hussein’s
weapons of mass destruction and his links with Al Qaeda.
the time being, the new Spanish administration has conditioned its stay in Iraq
to a resolution of the UN Security Council that would give the United Nations a
greater presence in the reconstruction and creation of political bases in Iraq,
a possibility that up to the present the Bush administration had tried to limit.
Apparently the White House is in a desperate situation, and there is talk of a
resolution that would give more power to the UN in Iraq.
the main loss for the United States wouldn’t be the Spanish retreat, but the
loss of an ally that became a U.S. Trojan Horse in the European Union. For U.S.
interests, a quiet and cooperative, but not closely knit and therefore weak, EU
is convenient,. A number of speculations are possible, but only time will tell
if they are reasonable or not.
first declarations by Rodríguez Zapatero and other SSWP leaders become policy
and Spain limits the almost carnal bonds that Aznar and Bush had, and
strengthens its ties with its natural habitat, Europe, it could lead to stronger
positions in the case of Germany and France, and to a lesser degree Belgium,
which shyly and erratically have been opposed to the aggressive and adventurous
policies of the present U.S. Administration.
Remember that last year the European Union was divided over different positions
on the Iraq War, Aznar's and Anthony Blair’s calls to back the White House Iraq
policy, and the more independent position of France and Germany that refused to
vote in favor of a resolution of the Security Council that upheld the aggression.
Those divergent positions almost provoked a schism among EU members.
other discordant point has been the approval of the European Constitution, a
document that many observers qualify as absurd, due to the different interests
of the 15 member countries and of the additional 10 that will become full
members on May 1, 2004. By the way, President Bush has called a meeting with
the governments of those 10 countries, all of which belonged to the Socialist
block and are trying at present to erase that past – in most cases in a rather
undignified manner. The objective of the meeting seems obvious. Bush hopes
that those countries maintain U.S. interests as priorities and support its
policies, and not Europe’s. The other element of discord, of which Spain was
the leader, was the number of votes each country should have and the percentage
necessary to approve issues that will be mandatory for all EU members, once the
remaining countries join the Union and the constitution is approved.
it’s too much to ask – we must wait for the new SSWP government to see what it’s
able to do – but in case Spain leaves the U.S.’ sphere of influence the step
could strengthen European policies, in spite of the fact that after the 2nd
World War European countries have supported U.S. policies one way or another,
whether during the long Cold War or after the disappearance of the Socialist
block, for in many aspects its economic interests are the same. Nevertheless,
at this time it’s obvious that the present policy of the Bush Administration,
with its goal of world domination, affects European interests. There are clues
that several governments are doing all they can to stop Bush from being
Rodríguez Zapatero has said that he wishes to retake the role of moderator in
the dialogue between Latin America and Europe, for which Spain is better suited
than any other country. If it were so, Spain would have to abandon its
attitudes of re-colonizer, a trait of Aznar’s government. A return to Spain’s
previous positions as an intermediary could create friction with the United
States, due to its interests in the region and its attempts to impose the Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
finished this column, Rodríguez Zapatero had answered Democratic Party candidate
John F. Kerry that his position regarding the withdrawal of Spanish troops from
Iraq is not negotiable. That is a commitment to the Spanish people, one with
perhaps no other alternative but to meet it. And seeing the recent declarations
of the Polish government, in charge of a military zone in Iraq, stating that
they were deceived by “manipulation” in the issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction, the situation of the coalition could become particularly difficult
for the White House, for although the Polish government guaranteed the presence
of troops it’s obvious that there are internal divisions. In an election year,
this could be a hard blow to George W. Bush’s aspirations for a second term.
case, it remains to be seen if Rodríguez Zapatero can really honor his promises
to the Spanish people. It is said that politicians belong to one of two groups:
one, very small, that believe that politics is the art of the impossible – the
group to which great statesmen belong – and another much larger, that says that
politics is the art of what is possible. In his public life, Rodríguez Zapatero
has shown that he belongs more to the latter than to the former. But since he
hasn’t been inaugurated yet, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.