Spain recovers as elections loom

Stephen Beard Dec 17, 2015
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Spain recovers as elections loom

Stephen Beard Dec 17, 2015
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Spain goes to the polls this weekend. A conservative government is seeking re-election after ousting the socialist party five years ago and then helping to steer the country away from  the brink of economic disaster. Spain is in far better shape today.

“It’s growing faster than any of the big European economies.  It’s growing about as fast as the United States right now. There’s a strong recovery underway,” said Gayle Allard of the IE business school in Madrid.

So this weekend’s election should be a shoo-in for the ruling conservatives?

Well, not exactly. There are three main reasons why the conservatives may not reap a rich electoral harvest.

Housing activist Lotto Tenhunen

The first problem facing the conservatives — said author and commentator Jose Ignacio Torrebianco — is that they’ve been mired in corruption and funding scandals.

“Secret accounts in Switzerland, that sort of thing.” said Torrebianco. “It is not a party that can easily capitalize on the benefits of economic recovery.”

And — secondly — that  economic recovery has not trickled down to all sectors of Spanish society. Far from it.  Unemployment remains horrendously high.  At  more than 20 percent, Spain has the second highest jobless rate in the eurozone. Housing activist — Lotta Tenhunen — who campaigns against home repossessions said no one should take the talk about a rebounding economy seriously.

“It seems almost comical that the statistics are showing an economic recovery,” she said. “That is not a reality for the people.” 

The third obstacle standing in the path of an easy victory for the conservatives at the polls (and for the socialists ) is a big change in the Spanish political landscape.  The public discontent has been so widespread that two new political parties have emerged in Spain — the anti-austerity Podemos on the left, and the more business friendly Ciudadanos on the center right. Alongside the conservatives and the socialists, no single party now seems likely to win an overall majority this weekend; and it’s far from clear who would form a coalition with whom.

Spain’s rapidly recovering economy could soon face another headwind: political uncertainty. 

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