Why Spain Will Never Be a True Democracy

Spain is unlikely to become a real democracy in the absence of major changes in the operating system or an upgrade of the operating system itself. It is not possible to understand this statement without having a thorough comprehension of the character or in other words idiosyncrasy of Spaniards as a people.

A medical doctor can deal with a patient and identify the origins of the disease. However the medical doctor will not be able to treat the patient unless he or she knows the patient’s character, his or her psychology, if the treatment is not to be imposed as it should not or cannot in the presence of personal freedom. A coach cannot support an employee who is struggling at work unless the employee is willing to accept and embrace advice. Contrary to Americans and the United States there are multiple traits of personality on European soil, reason why the European Union has not yet and might never become the United States of Europe, dreamt by France’s Jean Monnet in the aftermath of World War II. In addition there are multiple traits across Spain’s nationalities which make any process of identifying a common future distinctly unlikely.

Spain will never become a real democracy in the absence of real political parties. And real political parties may no longer be the best approach to governance (José Ortega y Gasset proposed a Junta Magna de Reorganización in December of 1930 as an alternative to the political parties). Both the two major national parties PP (Popular Party, right-wing) and PSOE (Socialist Party, left-wing), or the two major nationalist parties PNV in the Basque Country and CiU in Catalonia share the same structural problems. It is their operating system that ought to be changed radically, or otherwise a totally new operating system for democracy to be considered and installed.

If burgers are made out of rat, it does not matter how well they are marketed, they are still made out of rat, and we all know it. We have been eating rat burgers for years now. This is what political parties have become, houses which sell fake beef we all know is rat, yet we fail to acknowledge this contemporaneous evidence. What is worse is the ridiculous symbiosis between the political, the economic and the media establishments. All belonging in the same alliance they do a very poor job for the improvement of society because they perpetuate the absolute lie. Political parties pretend to sell processed beef when their raw intellectual material is rat: mediocre talent joining the base.

Politicians are sons of Witches. They think that they are Wizards, that they can fool society with their promises one more time. They are confident they behold the legitimate right of leadership because they have received the full backup of society through elections they deem transparent and democratic. They believe they are the true democrats. This ought to be a fact in a real democracy. The fallacy is that it no longer is. With two limited options on the shelf of the supermarket and no real competitors it is easy to be league champion this season and reach the final next season.

How have we landed in this one-way street with no apparent exit? How can it be possible that no alternative whatsoever to bipartisan politics seems plausible? Joaquín Costa’s 1901 essay “Oligarchy and Caciquism” helps us understand the surprising phenomenon.

Spain is a country of oligarchy where players do not compete but share a market colluding to maximize their profit-making. This is the case with bipartisan politics as it is the case in the energy sector. The most obvious rules of thumb have not been incorporated to the functioning of political parties since the advent of democracy in the aftermath of Francisco Franco’s death in November of 1975.

Political parties in Spain are not required to have open lists on which the electorate of a certain district knows what individual candidates they are supporting and as a result voting for. Political parties in Spain are not required to withhold primaries and posts are generally inherited from the predecessor. This is the case of current Premier Marrano Rajoy or Opposition Chief Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. This is for instance the case of the current mayor of the city of Madrid Ana Botella or the current president of the Region of Madrid Ignacio González, none of which have been elected and moreover both of whom have inherited the posts from the predecessor.

There are very rare exceptions to the general rule. Generally speaking the way to join a political party in Spain is through its youth base, called “Nuevas Generaciones” in the case of the PP and “Juventudes Socialistas” in the case of the PSOE. Youngsters who are barely 16 or 18 join either youth base with the aspiration of benefitting from the membership and obtain a dividend on the long run. Otherwise why join? Loyalty to the political party allows a party member to deserve a post after a number of years, whether as mayor, councillor, member of parliament or senator. The best and most talented rarely join a political party through the traditional method of joining their base.

The process of devolution or decentralization from the centralist Dictatorship which ruled Spain between 1939 and 1975 has only increased the ability of political parties to extend their nepotism and clientelism. A number of autonomous regions are so extremely corrupted that a point of no return has been surpassed. The reset button ought to be pushed in these regions, which does not seem plausible where parasites perpetuate. Hundreds of thousands of citizens owe a favour to a political party because they have won a contract, or have been placed in a municipal agency through their membership or affiliation to the party. These nepotism networks have been become so widespread that Spain’s economy can no longer sustain them. They are however being sustained though tax increases in an economy of fundamentally extractive nature.

Two much fat in a country will kill it. How tough it is to get rid of the fat in order to become lean.

Political parties and ideology have destroyed the banking system based on savings banks and the university. For over three decades political parties and trade unions have placed their representatives in the top management and boards of absolutely all savings banks. Competent politicians but incompetent bankers have literally destroyed and taken a majority of savings banks to bankruptcy. The defenders of public banking are the same who have destroyed public banking. Impunity reigns in the Kingdom. Banco  Santander and BBVA knew it well because they are managed by greedy and extremely bright bankers. Emilio Botín’s very best allies the professional politicians destroyed commercial banking’s fiercest enemies and competitors. It was a piece of cake.

Universities in Spain –with a handful of exceptions largely in Catalonia- suffer from the same principles of apparent democracy. Inefficient institutions unused to compete, managed by University Presidents who are democratically chosen by the University electorate. University Presidents are elected not on the base of their ability to manage.

The fathers of the current constitution in Spain (they were indeed all men) designed a legal text which has enabled Spain to move forward thirty plus years, but the text has become obsolete. The constitution, the electorate system itself, was designed to make sure that the two major political parties would obtain relative and absolute majorities with ease, leaving no place for civil society which has historically been extremely passive in Spain.

“Café para todos” is the very expression that depicts why the country is sinking in a way never seen before in our lifetime. Perhaps the last time there was this perception of irrelevance in the country was in between the loss of the last colonies Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898 and the Annual Disaster in Morocco in 1921. If the reader does not know this expression, the reader has homework left to do. In the next article this expression will be explained in detail.

Little will change if we continue to complain and blame our neighbor without acknowledging that each of us individually has to leave traits of our character behind –for instance picaresque and a culture of pelotazo- once and for all, let’s repeat it, once and for all. We need a medical doctor, the Iron Surgeon suggested by Joaquín Costa, to explain Spaniards the severity of the diagnose and undertake open-heart surgery.

One Response to "Why Spain Will Never Be a True Democracy"

  1. nmmaier   November 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    This is a great post. The writer has a very colorful way fo describing the sclerosis of Spain. It reminds me greatly of the two great parties in the USA, the Democrats and the Republicans and how they divide the spoils between them.