Wednesday, April 28, 2004

And the Winner is......

Both the timing and the circumstances surrounding the shock electoral defeat of the absolute majority ruling Popular Party, has led to many theories as to what exactly forced the change of government. People wonder was it the 11- M Terrorist Attacks or was it nothing more than the result of a properly functioning democracy?

American politicians called the vote "a great victory for Al Qaeda", and stated that Spain "chose to appease terrorists", while the press also joined in the chorus writing slogans such as, "Terrorism wins in Spain". I on the other hand, having closely observed the attitudes and politics of Spain since my arrival, do not agree with the above ill informed perspective. I simply see the election as a victory for democracy.

Unlike the NewYork Times, I have not forgotton that Spain entered into the war on Iraq with ninety per cent of the population opposed. You always get a few people saying yes to anything. However ninety per cent is close to unamity and yet the Popular Party arrogantly chose to ignore this. Just think what an incredible insult this was for a society who suffered forty years of fascism. Try therefore to imagine how humiliating it was for the people to have their voice disregarded once again.

The Spanish voted for their new leaders in the immediate aftermath of Madrids bloodiest day. The "tough on terrorism" Government insisted on going forward with the elections in the hope of riding the wave of fear and panic to victory. Blame was consciously misdirected on ETA and the government requested the White House to follow suit. This was of course happening while an Islamic Group claimed the very responsibility which ETA denied. However the public, already cynical after a series of undemocratic behaviour, saw through the Government spin and prior to voting, squeezed answers out of the then Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar .

Spain understands a Lack of Democracy more than most. Spain remembers a neutral United States (among others), when Generalisimo Franco overthrew an elected government. Nor does Spain forget the vital support given to the despotic rule of Franco during the Cold War, all because it suited the interests of those across the Atlantic. Once bitten, twice shy. Spain has no intention of being the puppet of American foreign policy a second time round. Therefore last week it was with great irony that the Washington Post likened the new Prime Minister, Jose Ruiz Zapatero to Franco for withdrawing Spanish Troops from Iraq without a Parliamentary Vote. Surely those of The Land of Freedom can appreciate the free will of another nation being exercised.

The electorate merely expressed agreement with the words of Zapatero, that wars such as that in Iraq "only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate".Unlike other nations, the Spanish proved themselves capable of thinking clearly in the face of tragedy. Instead of running to the polls in absolute panic, the electorate made an intelligent and informed decision based on the limited facts available to them. Terrorism did not win the election. It was the peoples desire for an unabused Democracy that won out in the end.