Today, May 3, will go down in the modern history of Spain’s Andalucía. The PSOE leader José Antonio Griñán will be elected as the president of the Junta de Andalucía with the support of the votes of Izquierda Unida – and the communist dominated far left party will enter government.
The centre right Partido Popular won the most seats, 50, but is easily outnumbered by the left coalition of the socialists and the IU on 59. Hence against all the odds PSOE retains power in Andalucía, Spain’s largest region, when only weeks ago the opinion polls predicted a sound PP victory. In the event the centre right vote collapsed and the left are the predominant grouping in the region that traditionally has always been behind PSOE.
Last week the activists of Izquierda Unida voted by 84.9 per cent to join PSOE in a coalition. It was not clear whether this would just mean the IU giving the socialists support or a full blow coalition. It appears to be the later and hence the communists will have ministerial portfolios.
Just how many will not be known to later this week when Griñán announces his government. He has stated that he will streamline the administration in the Andalucía capital of Sevilla by a third. This move has been backed by the IU’s co-ordination in Andalucía, Diego Valderas. He stated at the weekend that in these times of economic crisis the regional government should be streamlined and efficient.
It is expected that Diego Valderas will become the sole vice president in the administration under Griñán. The IU also hopes to pick up a third of the ministries with employment, the environment and tourism on their wish list. Given the pact between PSOE and the IU the PP are not likely to put forward the name of Javier Arenas for president as he would be overwhelmingly defeated.
Of course the arrival of the IU in a government in Spain will hardly cause a ripple amongst the voters. Many European countries traditionally have far stronger Communist Parties than in the UK albeit they now operate under another name. This is in stark contrast to the five Communist Party MPS who have been elected to the British Parliament starting in 1922 with Walton Newbold. Indeed the IU (a coalition between the Communist Party and environmental groups such as Los Verdes) is the third major political force in Spain, increasing in strength in both the national and regional elections as well as holding numerous town halls.
It is 81 years since Spain elected its Second Republic, an event still commemorated by Communists but at the time the party was in disarray. It wasn’t till 79 years ago, 1933, that the party’s first MP Cayetano Bolívar Escribano, was elected. Bolívar was jailed at the time of elections and left imprisonment to occupy his post in the parliament. However in the modern day it is not unusual for the IU to play a part in the government of Spain’s regional administrations.
PSOE has been shored up in government in Andalucía before by two coalitions with the Partido Andalucista. However the socialist spokesperson Susana Radio is adamant this will be a full on coalition with the IU of the style between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in the UK. The PA was very much sidelined in the coalitions with the socialists but the PSOE – IU coalition will be a united government with an agreed common platform to steer Andalucía through these very troubled times for the region and wider Spain.
Unemployment in Spain stands at 24.4 per cent with the youth jobless at a massive 49.6 per cent. As the IU is likely to take the employment portfolio it will be the Communist Party that is charged with rescuing the region from the unemployment abyss. There can be no tougher baptism in government for the true party of the left: but it is a challenge it has to meet and win as the fate of an entire generation lies in the IU’s hands.
(Photo: Griñán congratulated by Valderas after being elected president)
(The above article appeared in the Morning Star on Friday May 4 2012)