From independence, freedom and truth

Politics

Disabling the political establishment, or improving the system

Fernando del Pino Calvo Sotelo

September 14, 2016

“Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?” We must analyze Spain’s political reality with the same patience and detachment with which Swedish Count Axel Oxenstierna wrote these immortal words in 1648 in a letter addressed to his son.

The novice Socialist candidate has refused to enable the inauguration of the eternal non-acting President Rajoy, in the same way as the latter refused several months ago to enable the inauguration of the Socialist candidate (both with the support of that new, though not novel, social-democrat party called Ciudadanos). Our current President was apparently not overly concerned at that time with the harm done to the country’s public image as a result of recurrent elections, possibly due to the fact that he was not the candidate for inauguration. In my opinion it would have been in Spain’s interest if we had had alternation of power six months ago, even if that gave rise to a weak government and a short legislature. In the same way, Spain’s best interests would also have been upheld if the Socialist candidate had opened the way for a free vote to his own party MPs so as to allow for a fast inauguration of the Social-Democrat coalition (for the uninitiated, the People’s Party or Partido Popular and Citizens-Party of the Citizenry or Ciudadanos), which almost met the required majority. The post-election message expressed by the Socialist candidate, laying the blame for a possible return to power of the People’s Party candidate on the Leninist Party’s abstention to vote for him several months before was, possibly perchance, efficient and intelligent (particularly with the Leninists so shocked and stunned after getting such frustrating results). This message should have become a mantra.

However, beyond the self-centeredness and tendency to subordinate the common interest to personal objectives of both leaders, it appears striking to note the absence of understanding and the bad chemistry existent between the social-democrat party currently in power (People’s Party) and the opposition Socialist Party. In reality, both parties merely follow tradition: in each and every one of the thirteen investiture voting processes conducted since Spain reached democracy each party has voted against the other. In twelve of the thirteen legislatures the Government had an absolute majority (alone or in coalition with other parties), majority routinely abused in order to act as it saw fit, disregarding in almost all cases proposals submitted by the opposition and unashamedly colonizing almost all State institutions with docile political friends and colleagues. The opposition energetically and hypocritically protested against the overwhelming steamroller to which it was subjected, only to enforce its own steamroller with a certain vindictive delight upon reaching power. Democracy in Spain has thus been an alternating sequence of steamroller policies implemented by both parties in which vital legislation was repealed by the previously ignored opposition as soon as it reached power. This situation led to a system in which elections resulted not only in a shift in the composition of Parliament, but also brought about a dramatic hollowing out of and large-scale shifts in key Administration posts, in which efficiency and dependability were subsidiary to proximity to the ruling party. This longstanding lack of consensus between both political parties has been one of the leading causes of the legal uncertainty weighing down on our country, an endemic disease which, almost unseen, brings about increasing poverty and injustice, and which has fueled the idea of an insurmountable confrontation. It generates the disturbing feeling that our political establishment neither accepts matter-of-fact alternation in power nor is content once having achieved a victory, but rather aims at the obliteration of its opponent, the “Other”, in order to perpetuate its power. There are many examples of this, particularly plentiful under the harmful leaderships of both presidents Zapatero and Rajoy. For instance, Zapatero isolated and declared the main opposition party to be a pariah, a veritable democratic scandal, and Rajoy has actively contributed to the emergence of the dangerous Communist-Leninist party, with the purpose of weakening the socialists, dividing left-wing voters and incidentally giving rise to a monster which would, by creating a climate of fear among his own (betrayed) voters, do away with the repulsion felt by many of them towards him. We must bear in mind that the unspeakable purpose of President Rajoy, so far fortunately frustrated, is to transform the Leninist would-be tyrant into the leader of the opposition – an aim that must be clearly understood as absolutely antithetical to the interests of the nation at large.

We must, however, not center our attention on individuals, notwithstanding the character of their limitations, obvious to all but themselves, but rather focus on systemic errors, although these may go largely undetected by a society addicted to the instantaneous consumption of irrelevant news. Two lessons may be drawn from the existing situation which could immensely improve the quality of our democracy. Firstly, Spain desperately needs full independence of the three powers (executive, legislative, and judiciary), whereas at present there exists only one. As long as this situation lasts our system will continue to degrade, corruption will become endemic, and social disenchantment and frustration will ease the path for scoundrels who would swiftly destroy that which has taken so long to build (the scoundrels are already here, of course). We require an executive branch completely separate from the legislative branch, and to this end presidential democracies are an example in point. Direct presidential elections in a two-round system render situations such as the one we now face out of the question, and allow for coexistence between opposing parties, thus permitting voting into office executive and legislative branches from different parties. This system also makes dialogue and consensus among the parties essential and brings about greater equanimity in decision making, while also probably resulting in the beneficial side-effect of reducing the inordinate amount of legislation passed each year by our political establishment, whose members confuse governing with legislating. In that sense, the respite we have enjoyed for the last several months has become a true blessing. Likewise, we also necessarily require a recovery of the independence of the judiciary, wiped out in 1985 by the Socialist government of the time, with the full complicity of all successive governments without exception. In order to survive and prosper, societies need strong, independent institutions, government branches that respect them (including the near extinct fourth power), rules to protect them and citizens who, aware of their importance, defend them through their vote.

Second, we must undercut the leader-worshipping dominant in our political parties in an attempt to hinder inadequate leaders (are they not already present?) from forever holding on to power at the forefront of their parties, often to the detriment of the latter. To this end, several arms are extremely useful: freedom of vote for MPs (so far obliged to always vote with their parties) with the indispensable secrecy of vote, limitations of terms of office for the executive, the legislative and within the parties themselves, and immediate resignations when faced with electoral failures (People’s Party 2004, 2008, 2015; Socialist Party 2015, 2016) or investiture.

Spain has serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. Burke declared that, in order to govern, there must be “… virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive.” Where are they, either one or the other? They are nowhere to be seen.

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