Saturday, May 17, 2003

For the last month and a half the bars in Madrid have being closing as much as three quarters of an hour early . At first I naively thought that perhaps they had a system similar to the summer serving hours in Eire, except with the opposite effect. It now turns out that it is for an altogether different reason.

The real story is that the Madrid municipal elections are taking place on May 25th and so in an effort to win the votes of the MadrileƱos, the authorities are clamping down on the night time festivities. The police, who are of late more visible than I had previously seen, are patrolling the streets and making their presence felt by all, especially the bars.

The reason that the pubs are acting so cautious is because they have an almost impossible list of 100 conditions that must be fulfilled. Requirements might include the provision that a bar with a capacity for one hundred people must have four car parking spaces. This is of course very difficult given that most of the nightscene is in pedestrian zones and the cost of renting a garage space is as costly as Dublin (in relative terms). As a result, conditions such as these are conveniently ignored by the townhall until such a time as they want to be re-elected or change their plans for the neighbourhood in question.

It is when I hear facts such as these that I really fail to grasp an understanding of the Spanish people. I say this because the Spanish invariably burst with pride when talking about the unparalleled, non stop, "fiestas" of night time Madrid. This pride spans across all generations, from those who experienced the revival movement of the post Franco eighties, to those who simply hate the memory of the dictatorship era. Yet despite all of this the political parties have found that to win votes means to curb that great source of pride... the FIESTAS.

However this time around the looming elections will be decided on very different issues . To the relief of Jose Maria Aznar and his governing, outright majority holding, Popular Party, the Iraqi conflict is no longer dominating the headlines. This means that the public anger at the pro war stance of the government might have died down somewhat. The government worry that the Iraqi conflict, and their handling of the Prestige Crisis, will have mobilised the millions of socialist party voters and also the young voters, all of whom chose to stay at home for the last election. To add to their concern, the recent Casablanca Bombings are now raising national security fears amongst the public. This will shake their confidence for gaining re-election as many view the bombing of the Spanish Club as a direct retaliation for Spain´s support of the United States.

Aznar and his party hope to use this election as an opportunity to vindicate their support for the war. All parties view it as an indicator of the national elections next year. Surprisingly, according to various friends, despite the huge public outcries, Aznar and his party will win yet again. Why? Because the ruling party creates jobs.

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