The Valencian route in the Spanish puzzle

If I could choose an ideal place in the world to live, I would choose Spain.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 22:21
1 Reads
The Valencian route in the Spanish puzzle

If I could choose an ideal place in the world to live, I would choose Spain. Whenever I can, I express my enormous satisfaction at living in a mature democracy. In a social and democratic State of law. I will never tire of repeating it to my students because it is a privilege that is available to very few. Specifically, a little more than 1,300 million people out of a total of 8,000 million. As Moisés Naím said years ago, we are a rarity, by the way, in regression, in a world where autocracies, theocracies, authoritarian democracies and electoral democracies prevail. Democracy, the only system that is recognized as imperfect, is the system that allows us to live in more decent, free and fairer societies, thanks to the regulatory, driving and leveling role of public powers within a market economy. And there is no democracy without political parties, so that on them rests a fundamental part, although not exclusive, of the responsibility of organizing the democratic conversation in each electoral call.

During this electoral campaign I expected to be treated, that we were treated, with more respect. To talk about public policies, to argue proposals aimed at improving the lives of people trapped in complicated situations and who feel confused and insecure. To the point that there is a risk of political "disconnection" among broad layers of the population, especially among the youngest. That is why I write this text with concern. Because in an electoral campaign to elect our representatives in 8,131 municipalities, in two autonomous cities and in 12 autonomous parliaments, the democratic conversation has been stolen from us and has been deliberately oriented towards issues related to cultural battles, with ETA's past, as a first round of the next general elections and as a plebiscite referendum on the current president of the central government.

Some political actors from the world of the right have considered that it was not convenient for their parties and their interests to focus the debate on politics at the local and regional level and have preferred to situate it on the level of emotions, sharpening the tension with the objective not so much to mobilize their constituents and to demobilize sectors of the world on the left. It can seem highly objectionable, even abhorrent, to stir up feelings, delve into pain, twist the facts and the Penal Code itself, and focus attention on issues that have nothing to do with what is now being resolved. In democracies these things happen, unfortunately with increasing frequency, but we have the right to criticize it at least. Something that is forbidden to billions of people.

Time will tell what consequences are derived from this strategy for the governability of Spain in the immediate future. My impression is that if the right-wing coalition manages to form a government in the Valencian Community and this essential piece of the Spanish political puzzle declines the trends towards the right in the next general elections, we will enter unexplored territory in Spain. For several reasons that I only list here: a) Contrary to what some think, the social structure and electoral behavior of Madrid cannot be generalized to the whole. Not only for Catalonia and the Basque Country, but in many other territories; b) Spanish nationalism has an idea of ​​Spain from the Álvarez Encyclopedia of first grade. And that idea of ​​Spain has nothing to do with real Spain; c) the right could even be the force with the most votes in the next general elections and yet not be able to form a government given the impossibility of reaching an agreement with the numerous parliamentary groups, because they have broken all the bridges; d) the strategy of tension and permanent confrontation impoverishes deliberative processes and consensus and blocks all kinds of state agreements. And in a composite State like the one designed in the 1978 Constitution, which is based on negotiation and a permanent pact and on the necessary coordination and cooperation between the parties that make it up, this strategy can affect the governability of Spain; e) the proposal to ban Bildu is, if possible, the most dangerous of the ideas announced so far. As is the reiterated idea that the current government coalition seeks the "constitutional deconstruction of Spain", and f) a new dispute for leadership in the majority right-wing party is not even ruled out.

It has been reiterated, and I share the idea, that the electoral result in the Valencian Community could be very important for the political course of Spain. In this connection I want to highlight two paradoxes. The first is that there is a good assessment of the action of the Valencian government, but at the same time a technical tie between the world of the left and that of the right, according to barometers and polls. The explanation must be sought in the important incidence of national discourse among the electorate of the Valencian Community. In addition to the underlying processes and diffuse malaise that affect all of our Western societies, history itself, the role of its elites and the complex and highly diverse social structure of this autonomous community help to understand how the noise produced in Madrid influences in broad sectors of the citizenry. Although the political and institutional climate here is very different. This makes the Valencian Community a very special case. For this reason, the 28 M elections are for some political actors much more than municipal and regional elections. They are a fundamental part of the first round of the next general elections. And that is how they have been conceived from outside the Valencian Community. Not only, but fundamentally, from the world of the rights.

This strategy makes it difficult to talk about policies and prevents us from focusing attention on what is essential: taking stock of government action and discussing the great strategic challenges that await us. If the right-wing managed to form a government in the Valencian Community, it would be the abrupt end of the so-called Valencian road. The end of a way of understanding politics, of what it means to govern in coalition and of conceiving governance in a compound and certainly complex State. The Valencian road is synonymous with a recovered reputation, social dialogue, stability and public policies guided by the three fundamental principles of any decent society: freedom, equality and solidarity. From public policies that have had a generally positive impact, even having to manage the effects of an unexpected global pandemic with devastating effects for companies, workers and families. With an emotional imprint that will last for a long time. The governments of the Botànic, with their mistakes, have been a good example of how a political community of five million can and should be governed in a complex society. The Valencian way responds to that call made by Albert O. Hirschman, in his monumental work Rhetorics of intransigence, when he claimed the need for "a mature position" as a third way that in the Valencian case has proven passable.

But there is a second paradox that I would like to share. A hypothetical loss of the government in the Valencian Community does not necessarily imply that the same scenario will be reproduced in the next general elections. Nobody knows. But it could be the case that many citizens change their minds, since they would have already been able to learn about the first measures of regional governments and local governments formed by right-wing coalitions and verify the effects. The left would then have more arguments to focus the discussion around specific policies and the new parliamentary majority, which will be broad and very diverse, more reasons to grant or not support those who run for the presidency of the government. In other words, President Sánchez has at least a second round, but President Puig and the Valencian left do not.

By then, the situation would be irreversible in the Valencian Community and the consequences could be very deep and long-lasting. Because, although the Valencian right and extreme right have not wanted to talk about policies, it does not mean that they do not have an agenda designed to promote them. Very especially for everything related to the privatization of essential public services. They know how to do it and the pressure groups interested in doing business again at the expense of citizenship rights are already weighing their opportunities. Hence, and this is the greatness of living in a mature democracy, as everything is possible on 28M, it is time to insist on the conversation around policies wherever possible and to express now that the Valencian path deserves support majority at the polls. Without inhibitions or equidistances. Because there is no second round.