The Spanish Political Situation

For the last few years, Spain has fluctuated from a bipartisan country to a multi-partisan one. There are currently four political parties that will play an important role in the 20 December elections. The latest polls grant the current Government around 22 % of the votes (according to Metroscopia) far from the 44,6 % they obtained in 2011. This debate was branded as “definitive” since it was the only one that would include all four major political parties. It was simultaneously aired on both Atresmedia channels, Antena 3 and La Sexta. This two-hour-long debate was moderated by two journalists each from one of the channels, which target different audiences, Antena 3 appeals to more conservative viewers whilst La Sexta, being one of the youngest main TV channels, has a more progressive editorial approach.

debate

Photo credits: Wikimedia/ CC BY 2.0/Mariano Rajoy/by Tm

The much hyped-about debate included three presidential candidates: Pedro Sánchez representing the Socialist Party (PSOE), Pablo Iglesias Podemos’ candidate, and Albert Rivera as the front-runner for Ciudadanos. The fourth member was current-vice-president, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, who represented the People’s Party, now in office. There was a controversy over the fact that the current President, and candidate for the People’s Party, did not assist. Certain sectors of society considered that Rajoy was showing contempt for the newer political parties, since he was going to assist to a debate with the leader of the opposition, Pedro Sánchez. Another controversy surrounding this debate was the fact that two other national political parties who currently have parliamentary representation were not invited to the debate, probably due to the fact that current polls do not grant them a high outcome after the elections. 

The Debate

Más vídeos en Antena3

The moderators established the format and the politicians had to respect it, a novelty in Spanish political debates. In addition, several measures were taken in order to try and ensure an objective environment. For instance, the disposition in which they stood was decided at random as were the order of the first and last interventions. In addition, both politicians and the live-audience were not allowed to use any electronic devices nor was the audience permitted to show any kind of support or disagreement with the participants. Likewise, the four politicians were not able to leave the set and could only by assisted by one advisorA “time room” was set, were all interventions were timed, so as to ensure that all participants intervened more or less the same without imposing time restrictions.

Numerous topics were addressed, however, due to time limitations none of them were treated in detail. During the debate the participants discussed unemployment–especially important in a country with an official unemployment rate of 21.18 %–, taxes, education– under scrutiny after an educational reform that without the support of any opposition party–, pensions, corruption, Cataluña, domestic violence, possible coalitions, and military interventions in Syria. The unemployment rate section was especially important due to the fact that although it has decreased from virtually 27 % to around 21 % it still poses one of the major threats to Spanish economy and political stability. During this fragment of the debate the political parties stated how they would change if they came in power. Most of the changes proposed were changing everything that the People’s Party had done, especially abolishing the controversial Labor Reform.

Nonetheless, certain important topics such as healthcare, culture, and the protection of the Environment were left untouched. This could have been a good platform to raise certain controversial topics. Pablo Iglesias used this opportunity to address scandalous matters such as corruption and revolving doors in regards to both the People’s Party and the Socialist Party. The other parties, for example, lost the opportunity to ask Mr. Iglesias about why he had not shown his support for the victory of the opposition in Venezuela.

The Climax of the Debate

 

Despite social weariness with politicians, this debate was followed by approximately 9.2 million viewers, which represent a 48.2 % of the total share. This interest was on account of the fact that voters wanted to listen to what these politicians had to say. However, not much new came out of this debate. The public already knew most of the ideas and candidates just stated electoral promises that they did not explain how they would apply them. In addition, since the debate was made up by four participants there was not enough time to approach the topics profoundly. Since the topics were not treated with enough consistency it is likely that it did not change or determine many votes. These debates just seem to reaffirm each individual’s previous opinions. Furthermore, certain analysts consider that this type of screened debate is not useful to gain votes due to ideas but only through political and personal marketing. 

Overall, most citizens are disenchanted with traditional political parties. Especially derived by the numerous corruption scandals and that politicians are viewed as an isolated group who is not in contact with the people and therefore do not know their day to day problems and, hence, cannot fix them. However, there are still people that vote for these “traditional parties” because they are scared, or do not trust, the new ones since they have no real governing experience or are considered too extremist, as is the case of Podemos. There are also those who consider them the legitimate best option to govern Spain.

debate

Photo credit: Wikimedia/ CC BY 3.0/Presentación de PODEMOS/Discasto

The debate had no clear winners. Most political commentators ranged from Soraya Saénz de Santamaria and Pablo Iglesias as winners. Nevertheless, there seemed to be a larger consensus on the fact that Pedro Sánchez had lost the debate. Despite its claim to be the “definitive debate” it was followed by two other televised encounters. On 9 December the Spanish National Television (TVE) hosted a debate in which 9 political parties were invited and on 14 December there is another debate scheduled between Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez.

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Marina Maria Nieto

Marina Maria Nieto

Recent International Relations and Translation graduate from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. Interested in Spanish and international politics.