The disorder of Spanish politics

In regional and municipal elections yesterday, the ruling Socialist Party lost Barcelona as well as Sevilla in a comprehensive defeat that saw the conservative Popular Party emerge as the strongest in Spain.  The Popular Party is the descendant of the Alianza Popular, a party even further to the right that was founded in the 1970s by Manuel Fraga and other Francoist ministers; by chance, both Fraga and the Alianza Popular feature prominently in a book I just started, The Anatomy of a Moment, which is Javier Cercas’s masterful account of the 23 February 1981 coup attempt against the post-Franco semi-democratic government of Adolfo Suarez.  The book, the elections, and recent youth protests are all reminders that Spain (with Italy perhaps) has the most idiosyncratic political system of any major country in the Western world.  That may no longer take the form of rule by caudillo or lieutenant colonels in absurd tricorner hats brandishing guns in the Senate — though the former ended only in 1975 and the latter was the signature moment of the ’81 coup, neither occurring so very long ago — but, today, can still be seen in the regional nationalists, ETA terrorists, and most recently in the eclectic mix of Leftist activist groups gathering across Spain under the banner of los indignados to protest…well, the general economic malaise and disaffection with the political elite that in Spain, as Javier Cercas illustrates in his book, historically came from the Right and ended in military action.  The Atlantic has a revealing photo series on the current protests, which, it is said, are inspired by the youth revolt in Egypt and have centered on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol.  I took the photo above (click here for more of my Spain photographs) at one of a series of protests in Barcelona in May 2010 that were ostensibly against government austerity and the occupation of Palestine but gathered up anarchists, 9/11 Truthers, and even threw in a reference to the Bilderbergers.

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