Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Galicia Prepares For Elections

Is it election time again already? Well only in Galicia, if press predictions are accurate the elections for Galicia’s regional government are going to be brought forward to the autumn even though they do not need to be held before next year. Although the voting will only take place in that region, the results will have an impact on national politics, as it is the first major electoral test since the general election in March.

The reasons for bringing forward the elections are purely political, the current alliance between the PSOE and the Galician nationalists (BNG) is quite capable of seeing out its full term; but the PSOE in particular has strong incentives to go for an earlier poll. Reason number one is that the economic situation is expected to get worse next year, and the Galician PSOE will be keen to avoid as much as possible a punishment from voters aimed more at the national government. If circumstances are not going to get better then you might as well go for it. Number two is a possible clash between the Galician election and the equivalent elections that need to be held in the Basque Country. This is where things become a bit of a gamble, because the possible timing of the Basque elections is also variable and depends on the legal wrangling over the proposal by the Basque government to hold a referendum. This issue is currently up before the Constitutional Court. Again, the Galicians will not want events elsewhere to overshadow their own campaign.

Not so keen on early elections in Galicia is the Partido Popular. PP leader Mariano Rajoy has been quick to downplay any suggestion that his position might be affected by a poor result in his home territory. He doesn’t sound very confident about his party’s chances, making it clear that he is not the candidate and distancing himself carefully. Of course a bad result there could restart the campaign against him, Galicia used to be a PP stronghold and a failure to recover control will renew criticism of Rajoy’s lack of electoral appeal. Galicia could hurt him much more than the results of the Basque elections or those for the European Parliament where heavy abstention could easily mean that the generally more loyal voters of the PP give Rajoy a victory.

Colin over at Thoughts from Galicia thinks that there will be a backlash against the nationalists because of their policies on language use in the region. I’m not so sure, their vote held up very strongly in the general election in March, and nationalist voters are generally more motivated in the regional polls. Those who voted for the BNG are not those likely to object to greater promotion of the Galician language, but we shall see. As yet, we still don’t have the official announcement.


Graeme said...

Comment from Colin:

Hmm. Seems we were both wrong on the election date.

As for the BNG vote. I can't recall and am too lazy to research it but my recollection is that it fell to 18% at the last election [from 19%] but, despite this, the BNG was able to enter government in coalition with the PSOE. Since when it has made hay under the sunshine. We will now have to wait until spring to see whether they've overdone it.

Graeme said...

It seems that almost everyone was wrong about the election date. It's a bit of a dangerous game to play with election dates in this way, look what happened to Gordon Brown when he did it.

Colin said...

Yes, I did wonder whether Touriño's evident annoyance didn't mask fear that he'd suffer similar accusations of cowardice to Brown. But one can understand him being annoyed if it was actually Z who took the decision because he needs to strike a deal with the BNG over regional finance. Even though the BNG supports the Catalan model. Irony upon irony. Who'd be a politician? Quite a few rogues, apparently.

Graeme said...

I don't think the BNG supports the Catalan model for financing though, I think on that particular issue they are very much with the solution that promises greater redistribution. Ironic as well is seeing the PP trying to get closer to the BNG, don Manuel seems to have decided they are no longer so unacceptable.

Colin said...

Graeme, I hope this is the right box. . .

This is the source for my view on what the BNG thinks. As my local critics rightly say, I don't read their original statements/press releases in Gallego, so the writer may be wrong. And, tehrefore, me too.

Only 7 letters this time.

Graeme said...

I guess the problem for them is that it's difficult as nationalists for them to defend a system based around redistribution within the Spanish state. On the other hand, if the Catalan demands are met in the new system you can bet the BNG will raise hell about any loss of funds for Galicia.