“Spain is part of this European trend – and it’s not just because of Rajoy’s fall from grace or Catalonia’s irascibility. It is part of a larger degradation of what has been until now Spain’s predominantly two-party political system”
That fear turned out to be misplaced. Over the past three years, gross domestic product growth has averaged over 3%. Unemployment has dropped to 17% and is projected to fall below 14% next year. The European Commission reported that wage growth in Spain is expected to rise faster than inflation in 2019 – so not only are more people finding jobs, but they are getting paid more as well. The government succeeded in pulling Spain back from the brink, and according to the Bank of Spain, it cost the country itself only 26.3 bln euros – not a bad deal considering that its economy is the fourth-largest in Europe and only slightly smaller than Russia’s.
Yet, despite Spain’s much improved economic position, Spanish politics are more unstable now than they have been in decades. With a government plagued by a corruption scandal for years, Mariano Rajoy, who had served as prime minister since 2011, was ousted in a no-confidence vote last week – the first Spanish head of state to have lost such a vote since the 1978 constitution was adopted. Rajoy will be replaced by Pedro Sanchez, head of the Socialist Party, which holds only 84 of 350 seats in parliament and has already promised to call early elections. Spain now joins Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom as the latest European country with an extremely weak government.
This isn’t the way things are supposed to work. Economic recoveries don’t usually result in political upheavals. But that is indeed what has happened in Spain. In addition to the prime minister’s ousting, the issue of Catalan independence remains Rajoy’s heavy-handed approach to Catalonia apparently hasn’t dented its desire for sovereignty. During his swearing-in ceremony, Torra committed to creating an independent Catalan republic.
A similar scenario has played out across Europe. All headline economic statistics throughout the EU are trending upward, exceeding even the most optimistic projections of a few years ago. But the coalition to lead the new government. And in France, if the National Front had a leader with a surname other than “Le Pen,” it may well have prevailed in last year’s elections.
Spain is part of this European trend – and it’s not just because of Rajoy’s fall from grace or Catalonia’s irascibility. It is part of a larger degradation of what has been until now Spain’s predominantly two-party political system. A recent poll by Spanish newspaper El Pais showed that if elections were held today, the top two vote-getters would be anti-establishment parties: Ciudadanos (29.1%) and an electoral alliance led by