May 24, 2015 local elections in Spain brought a titanic shift in the country’s political landscape as Podemos (We Can), the newly formed far-left party, has registered major victories coming third and winning the mayor offices in Madrid, possibly Barcelona and Valencia. The victory disrupts the long standing two-party stranglehold on Spanish politics and certainly will change the face of the upcoming fall general elections and put pressure on the current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The stunning victory of Ada Colau, a prominent protest leader against bank evictions after the economic crisis, is set to become the first woman to hold the mayor’s office in Barcelona and carries with her to office the hopes of the people. The political shift is directly connected to Spain’s stagnant economic picture and un-improving unemployment currently hovering around 25 percent. In addition, the vote can be seen as a protest against the overall failure of the European Union to address the lagging growth and weakening economic fundamentals in the common market zone. More critically, the votes reflect lack of confidence in the European Union Central Bank and the German Central Bank, which moved swiftly during the crisis to rescue the banks that were reckless with people’s money and retirement savings, while punishing the working class and the poor. The ascension of Podemos, a far-left party, and also Ciudadanos (Citizens), a center-right party, into Spain’s political landscape will for sure complicate the road toward economic recovery. In this context, both parties and the election results represent the mobilization of protest sentiments into an effective voting block that, if successful, is destined to alter the country’s economic and political policies in the near future.
The vote and outcome in Spain is significant for it is the second country with Greece being first in the European Union to experience the emergence of a new and assertive political left in response to worsening economic conditions. Whereas in Northern Europe the response to the economic crisis was a turn toward xenophobia, Islamophobia and a sharp far right turn that included some disturbing trends of some Neo-Nazis getting rehabilitated into the political mainstream. Thus, the development in Spain with Podermos and Syriza in Greece are bucking the right-wing trend witnessed in other parts of Europe, which also explains the harsh responses from the gatekeepers at EU Central Bank and the German Central Bank, who intend to push ahead with austerity measures that at the core favors the banks and structurally punishes the poor and the middle class.
What does thinking outside the box mean for Turkey, Spain and Greece at this point in relations to the economic picture? Could the three countries manage to overcome long held identity conflicts and territorially framed relations to bring a new Mediterranean economy shaped by forging innovative market relations between them and others willing to think outside the box!
The issues that divide the Mediterranean group are all well-known and hundreds of thousands of pages are available for anyone interested. However, at a time when individuals are losing their families, homes, life savings and jobs without a war or major conflict then something seriously is wrong in the world. What would be the impact and likelihood if Turkey took the initiative to extend loans and economic assistance to Greece and Spain immediately! The new left parties in both Spain and Greece need real and impactful solidarity and support from countries, communities and individuals who have a social justice-based worldview. Absent this type of solidarity the IMF, the World Bank, the EU Central Bank and the other lending interests will bring extreme pressure and force the status quo to prevail while snuffing out hope as it sprouts in both Spain, Greece and other places.
I don’t pretend to know the specifics of how it could be done and what are the real possibilities for such an initiative; nevertheless, a significant development has taken place and it is imperative to explore all avenues to bring about a new and more hopeful future horizon. What is evident is that the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer since they managed a most profound trickle down economic program supported and voted on by a bought and paid for out of touch political elites. This current trickle down economic model is based on putting the poor and middle class structurally into debt through government incentivized borrowing then flipping them upside down through taxes and austerity so that everything they have in their metaphorical pockets trickles down back to banks, corporation and the oligarchs, who hustled them into debt in the first place. The time to think outside the box is today!