Saturday, 26 November 2011

CiU and Southern European fiscal responsibility

A slightly peculiar aspect of Swedish political correctness which I have discovered only during the ongoing financial crisis is that while it would not at all be acceptable to argue that immigrants living in Sweden are too lazy for hard work, it is perfectly legitimate to write that Southern Europeans might not have the intention to be responsible for their national finances. And while Angela Merkel’s resistance to Euro bonds angers José Manuel Barroso and Nicolas Sarkozy, she can count on strong support – occasionally bordering admiration – in Swedish media. Most Swedes share the German voters’ lack of trust that the Euro countries now facing financing problems will in the end adopt tough savings and reform programs. We clearly live in times when the old prejudice (?) that Northern Europe is industrious and thrifty, while the Southern part prefers fiesta and siesta, is growing stronger and stronger.

With this as a background you might understand why I was so positively surprised with the Catalan results in the Spanish general elections. While the absolute majority for PP was a signal that the whole of Spain sees the need for change, the way you voted here went one step further. For the first time ever did CiU become the biggest political party in Catalonia, although the last year with this force ruling the Generalitat has been dominated by budget cuts. I mean, how many times have we not seen protests against the closing of primary care units or even big demonstrations and strikes among health care workers (the latest one just a few days before last Sunday)?

Given this situation, you could have all opted for PP and thereby expressed your discontent with how the socialists have governed Spain while at the same time signaling that CiU has been too brutal in cleaning up after the Tripartit. However, you did not. Of the 47 Catalan seats in the Spanish parliament, CiU will now hold 16, up from 10 (!). (PSC will hold 14 (-11!) and PP 11 (+3). Even here in our “red” Vilanova i la Geltrú did 28,37% of the electorate vote for CiU compared with 19,93% in 2008.

As I see it, you demonstrated your understanding that CiU does what needs to be done - you voted for the change to continue (Mai millor dit! Ping: PSC Vilanova i la Geltrú)! That was an encouraging confirmation that at least one little part of Southern Europe is committed to fiscal responsibility. I promise to do my best to convey that message to my fellow Swedes.

- - -
Interesting media links:

CAT - Ara: Eleccions 220-N, dades
CAT - Ara: Boi Ruiz obre la porta a una nova retallada a Salut en plena vaga
GER - Handelsblatt: Merkel ist kein Bond-Girl
SPA - Expansión: Rajoy debe mirar a Barcelona y entenderse con Mas
SWE - Dagens Nyheter: Euroobligationer: Barroso gapar över mycket


Tom said...

Spain as a whole did not switch to the PP at all. The PSOE lost 4 million votes and the PP gained 400,000. Socialist voters either switched to IU or stayed at home.

In Catalonia, CiU intentionally delayed budget announcements until after the general elections.

If by "financial responsibility" (I guess that means "fiscal responsibility"), you're referring to widespread pay cuts, redundancies and an attempted privatisation of the health system, then you're welcome to it.

CiU and PP's attack on public services will not be fondly remembered by Catalan voters. Nor will it prevent the sharks in the financial markets from continuing to attack.

Erik Wirdheim said...


First of all, thank you for commenting and also for helping me with the English language. I will allow myself to change the title as of your proposal.

If a certain part of the Spanish (and, even more so, Catalan)electorate decides to stay home on election day, since they see that their party cannot solve current problems, then I - like most of the press - think it is OK to describe this as a "switch".

The fact that this is what happened (as you rightly point out) - rather than PP winning votes - will be the topic for a coming post.

As for the budget announcement of this week, I am confident that very few of those who voted CiU are among those who now protest about when it was made public. Personally I see it as just another step in a process which we all know is going on. Remember that we had the doctors here on strike just before the elections.

If you are convinced that "CiU's and PP's attacks on public services will not be fondly remembered by the Catalan voters", how do you explain that CiU was the most voted party here, although we - in contrast to most of Spain - already see the consequences of the budget cuts? As we both know, PSC tried to capitalize on that disappointment and, whoops, what happened...? ;)



Tom said...

Hi Erik,

CiU is often the most voted party here in Generalitat elections. Their most important advantage is that they are seen as being a wholly Catalan party, but with candidates who are far more presentable than those of ERC. Young voters I know who have switched from PSC to CiU always cite the PSC's link to Madrid as its main negative point.

What I find interesting (and I may write about this on my blog, but I'd be happy if you included it in your forthcoming post), is that comparing 2010's Generalitat elections with 20N this year, the Tripartit parties have improved their share of the vote considerably. I know the elections are not like for like so I'll need to check out some older data too but basically, CiU lost about 100k votes whereas PSC added about 350k. LIke I say, the elections are for different things... but with the same votes the Tripartit could well have been ruling here again.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Tom,

What you bring up could is intriguing at a first look (I've been down that road a couple of times...), but you'll soon find out that the elections to the Generalitat have very little to do with those to the Spanish parliament. There is a huge group of PSC voters who only ever vote in the latter ones (plus on the municipal level).

From memory I would say that CiU has been the most voted party in all elections to the Generalitat, while PSC - until now - has always been the most voted Catalan party in the state elections. That is what made 20N so unique from CiU:s perspective.