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22M, 15M and a peaceful revolution?

May 23, 2011 – 1:22 pm

Results of local and regional elections in Spain on 22 May 2011, by political parties' shares of the vote.

Today is such a momentous day for news in Spain, I don’t really know where to begin. This blog is not supposed to be political, either in content or bias, but you can’t (well, I can’t, anyway) ignore what’s been going on around the country, including in Andalucia, over the past momentous week. There is so much to take in, so much analysis to absorb, and it’s all changing by the hour.

Yesterday, in Spain’s local and regional elections, the PP (Conservatives, blue in the graph above) trounced the PSOE (Socialists, red), to the extent that in Andalucia’s municipal elections (ie for town and city councils, or ayuntamientos, not for the Junta, the regional parliament), the PP got 39% of the vote, and the PSOE 32%. Every one of the eight provincial capitals of Andalucia will now have a PP mayor. However in some provinces (Jaen and Sevilla), the Socialists actually won a larger share of the vote than the PP, and will therefore control more town councils in those provinces.

That’s it in a nutshell, in terms of Andalucia. It was the PP’s second-best performance since post-Franco democracy, and it was nothing short of a disaster for the PSOE. The crisis has cost them dearly, handing their opponents a landslide victory.

But what has been much, much more interesting about the past week has not been canvassing, election manifestos, political slogans or would-be mayors’ photo ops. OK – so they’re never very interesting, but in this case, popular attention and social (rather than conventional) media, above all, have been grabbed, dominated and gripped by a new phenomenon, called 15M or ¡Democracia Real Ya!

Meeting at the Setas in Seville last Friday.

This is a loose group of people, organisations and city sit-ins, who want change – political, social and economic. One of their slogans is “No somos antisistema. Somos cambiasistemas.” (We’re not anti-system, we’re for changing the systems.) Started by an 26-year-old parado (unemployed) lawyer called Fabio Gandara, the group is demanding reform of the electoral system, greater transparency for public bodies, a referendum on bank bail-outs and more openness about funding of political parties. Two of the most widely-supported points are about corruption: politicians under investigation shouldn’t be allowed to run for office; and unemployment, which is at 45% among the young.

DRY is determinedly apolitical, and without leaders; shrewdly, it insists that those in the acampadas which have sprung up all over Spain don’t drink alcohol. The one in Seville is in the Setas, the new architectural project which was finished just a few weeks ago.

Sign for camp-out in Seville.

The atmosphere at both the rallies and acampadas throughout Spain has been peaceful and friendly, but also energised and hopeful. Those attending are not just young people; from 20-something students to 60-something jubilados (pensioners), all ages and social classes are represented. In Andalucia many cities saw meetings last week: Seville (4,000 people), Malaga (7,000), Granada (1,500), Almeria (800), and Cadiz (1,000). Nationally, Madrid and Barcelona have the largest acampadas, with Madrid having a mini-village of 25,000 in Puerta del Sol, called Plaza Solucion, which has made the news globally. Food and blankets are being donated by supporters (85% of Sevillanos back the Setas group).

Some of these groups have already pledged to stay put for at least another week, with further rallies being planned for next weekend. From a blog called Juventud en Accion (Youth in Action) started last December, to hand-written signs, to knock-on rallies in New York, London and Brussels. As long as it remains peaceful and law-abiding, a bit of popular protest is a healthy thing in a democracy. In my opinion.

"8pm: against politicians and bankers" - a sign advertising a meeting in Plaza Encarnacion in Seville.

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