Thursday, December 27, 2007

Themes That Can Change An Election....The Party Lists

The date of the next general election in Spain has now been confirmed, it will be on March 9th 2008. The announcement didn’t provoke much surprise, the same date had already been chosen some weeks ago for the regional elections in Andalucia, and it was never very likely that Andalucians would be called to the polls twice on separate dates in a region which is one of the main sources of support for the governing PSOE.

One of the most important steps for all parties to take now is the selection of their candidates for the lists that are presented in each region of the country. Party politics in Spain tends to be very centralised with decisions on candidates in most cases being taken by the central headquarters of the party or by regional “barons”. Voters choose an ordered list of candidates rather than voting for individuals and the number elected from each list therefore depends on the total votes cast for that party in the region concerned. All of which makes the position of an individual in their party’s list a crucial issue for their chances of making it into parliament.

The party with the greatest headache in putting together its list of candidates is going to be the Partido Popular (PP). Prime Minister Zapatero is busy distributing his ministers to head the PSOE list in different regions, and so far everyone is doing as they are told. For the PP the principal problem is Madrid, and to some extent Valencia as well. In Madrid the problem is the intense rivalry between Esperanza Aguirre and city mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, who has already staked his claim to a place in the PP list for the region. The main source of the problem is that Gallardón is allowed to combine his job as mayor with that of being a member of the Congreso, but Aguirre as a regional president is not allowed to do the same. So Esperanza has been busily trying to block Gallardón’s chances, or at least ensure that he does not get one of the first places on the list; which will be headed in any case by Mariano Rajoy. The background issue is of course the battle for succession to Rajoy should he lose the election, and the rivals are looking for the strongest possible position to make their move. It has been reported that Aguirre has lost her bid to prevent Gallardón appearing in the list and is now attempting to promote a formula where he will be held jointly responsible for any failure by the PP to win the election.

The situation in Valencia could also impact the Madrid decision, as the name of the problem in this case is Eduardo Zaplana. The cynical and shifty Zaplana, who giggled and joked his way through the parliamentary commission on the Madrid bombings, used to be the regional strongman in Valencia. However, since moving to Madrid to form part of Aznar’s administration he has lost power in Valencia to the current regional president Francisco Camps. All of which makes it unlikely that he can appear in the PP list for Valencia, or at least not in the top positions. One potential solution to this problem is that he also goes into the Madrid list. Whether that makes the Madrid list more electable is open to question; although PP supporters in Madrid have repeatedly shown over the past few years that quality of candidates is not an important issue for them. A parrot trained to say “Hello, I’m your PP candidate” would stand as much chance as anyone else, so why not put Zaplana there too? The toughest problem for Rajoy is not with the voters, but with the internal battle a misjudgement with the party list could unleash.


Tom said...

Graeme - nice to see you back. Did you see that Zapatero has agreed to a debate just days before the vote? brave or foolhardy?

Graeme said...

The common wisdom on these debates is that an incumbent doesn't need to debate a contender unless the opposition is clearly ahead in the polls. I think Zapatero believes he can beat Rajoy in a TV debate because he has repeatedly had the better of him in parliamentary debates. He is more telegenic and less abrasive than Rajoy, but these things can be dangerous too. I find such debates stage managed and boring to be honest. Also, they exclude all other political parties.