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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Spain or the Poisoned Coalitions
Carlos Alberto Montaner writes from Spain about the changes being undertaken there.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Madrid -- The same thing is happening in Spain as is happening in the rest of the world. The world is abandoning, unfortunately, the behavior and the design of the post-World War II order. Likewise, Spain is changing its skin.

In Spain, also unfortunately, the spirit of the transition to democracy comes to an end. It occurred after the death of Franco in 1975, and it was based on a type of bipartisanship in which both formations (socialists and conservatives) were pro-European and shared the belief that the solution to economic woes was in the market and the private property.

It was that bipartisanship that brought socialist Felipe González to power. During the 14 years of his government, he privatized state companies created by Francoist corporatism, called for a referendum to join NATO, and was a fiery anticommunist during the end of the Marxist dictatorships in Europe.

It was under the spirit of the transition that José María Aznar, during his eight years in the house of government, substantially improved the country’s economic indexes and achieved the highest degree of relative development ever obtained by the nation, making Spain a participant of the euro system, while reinforcing the most intimate military links with the West.

Today the bipartisanship has split into six electoral factions that are constantly squabbling and need to make a pact to reach the Moncloa: socialists, communists and local nationalists (the coalition that currently rules); and the opposition that, according to the polls and the recent Andalusian elections, constitutes the majority of the country: conservatives, liberals and right-wing nationalists similar to Trumpism.

They are poisoned coalitions. The PSOE of Pedro Sánchez has committed the immense mistake of making a pact with the communists of Podemos and Izquierda Unida, and with the local independentists (Catalan and Basque), in order to gain the power at any cost. In the same way that the conservatives of the PP and the liberals of Ciudadanos will ally themselves to Vox, the ultranationalists who use Steve Bannon (Trump’s strategist) as their political adviser.

Were other types of coalitions possible? Of course; the constitutionalists should have joined together. It depended on the seriousness with which the Constitution of 1978, the great document that defined the process of transition initiated at the end of 1975, was perceived.

There are really constitutionalist parties (the conservatives, the liberals, the socialists), and there are those who only respect the constitutional norms in a strategic way, waiting to be able to overthrow the institutional building that sustains the current Spain (the communists, the local independents and, to a large extent, the ultra-nationalists.)

Under a similar context Germany’s Angela Merkel drew the bases of a great coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, that is, between the conservatives and the socialists. That coalition has sustained German political life during a long period, expressing the criteria of the majority of the Germans.

Of all the problems that Spain has, the trickiest is that of independentism. That is the greatest difficulty in creating the great coalition. In Catalonia, less than half the people want to split from Spain. (In the Basque country, according to official surveys, those who want the separation barely reach 21%). It is not possible to rule smoothly with almost half of the Catalans eager to find their own path, but neither it is acceptable to abandon the other half of the Catalans who feel themselves, primarily, Spaniards.

The solution lies in democracy, for which the Constitution would have to be reformed. We must admit, humbly, that the shapes of the nations are not eternal, but the decisions cannot be left in the hands of voluble simple majorities, so that the sad spectacle of Brexit does not take place, while today most British want another referendum to return to the European Union. The simple majority is the recipe to set the house on fire.

Transcendent decisions, such as forming or not part of Spain, must be taken by Catalans (or any other region) by qualified majorities of 60% of the census, in mandatory voting, and during two different legislative terms, to prevent a conjunctural problem from determining the fate of the region and affect future generations. And if in these conditions the Catalans choose to separate from Spain, the reasonable thing is to allow them to pack their bags and wish them good luck.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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