Wednesday, August 05, 2009

It's My Party And You Can Leave If You Want To

It may generally be the left that is seen as having an infinite "Life of Brian" style capacity to divide, but in Spain at the moment there seem to be more problems with some of the newer parties on the political scene, as well as with some old friends. Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD), which has hopes of becoming the third force in national politics recently experienced a serious internal row and one of the founding members, Mikel Buesa, walked out the other week criticising the party leadership. Then a number of dissident members who had started a blog critical of the same leadership found themselves threatened with disciplinary action and more or less invited to leave if they didn't like the way in which the party was being run. This invitation was a bit rich coming from party leader Rosa Diez, who is something of an expert on hanging on inside a party that she doesn't agree with.

Parties like UPyD try to present themselves as being different from the rest of the political pack as they leave old politics behind. At least in the case of internal party democracy and the politics of personality it seems that the main influence must have been Stalin. Diez described the situation as a "crisis of growth", in reality that stage will come when they need to persuade all party members plus relatives and dogs to stand as candidates in the next municipal elections. Another of the newer parties in crisis is Ciudadanos, which emerged as a sort of Catalan predecessor of what UPyD is attempting at national level. Ciudadanos seems to have even more factions than it does elected representatives, relations between its three members in the Catalan parliament are said to be very frosty, even more so following the decision to join the Libertas ticket in the elections for the European Parliament.

Outside of the political parties there have also been serious internal problems inside the Asociación de Victimas del Terrorismo (AVT). The former president and self-styled leader of the "civic rebellion", Francisco José Alcaraz, thought he had left everything "atado y bien atado" when he left the presidency in the hands of his anointed successor - Juan Antonio García Casquero. Sad to say, the new president has failed to live up to the expectations of those who helped him to the position, his greatest crime of course being his failure to call repeated demonstrations against the government. García Casquero has come up with the incredible excuse that you can't demonstrate against the government for negotiating with ETA when there is actually no negotiation taking place. It's even possible that he believes the AVT should use its resources to help its members rather than as a political propaganda weapon. Understandably this has all been too much for Alcaraz, who has stomped off to form his own splinter group.

Although parties like UPyD and Ciuadadanos try to feed off general disaffection from the main national parties they also share a common factor with the AVT under Alcaraz. All of these organisations thrive in an atmosphere of political "crispación", where there is a constant tension over issues such as nationalism and terrrorism. Now that Mariano Rajoy and the PP have changed strategy and have dropped the openly confontational style of the last parliament, the political atmosphere is no longer so advantageous and the splits we are seeing reflect the lack of a real project once the headline grabbing enemy no longer seems so visible.


Pueblo girl said...

Sigh. Move to the provincial capital of León. Grafitti everywhere demanding independence from Valladolid (the regional capital). Move further out into the country. Signs everywhere demanding independence from León capital. Go further up-country. Signs everywhere demanding independence from the local council. Conclusion: splintering is much easier than defending your argument from within. Sigh.

ejh said...

The UPyD actually remind me very much of the Irish Progressive Democrats, who similarly came out of left politics with a free-market and social-liberalism message, similarly got vast amounts of favourable media coverage (because they reflected what young affluent media people think) and similarly treated both left and right as outdated concepts.... in the most arrogant manner possible. Similarly, they were unable to see why exuding a sense of superiority to everybody else failed to gain them many votes outside affluent metropolitans areas (i.e. where people share their sense of superiority to everybody else) or indeed why people who liked rightwing economics preferred to cote for rightwing parties rather than themselves.

In the case of the PDs, after a spell in government they imploded and their leading members either went into the rightwing parties or disappeared.

Graeme said...

With the important difference that the core of UPyD's approach is to attract those who dislike the autonomy given to the Basque Country or Cataluña. This seems initially to have worked much better with voters from the right meaning that the party has gone very quiet about anything that might betray even the slightest hint of a left wing influence.

Graeme said...

@Pueblo girl

I have been in the fiestas of León with friends and we were given the full list of grievances against Valladolid. From what I gathered the resentment is based around León having historically been the crucial connection point between the centre and Galicia or Asturias - before the creation of the autonomia of Castilla y León.Since then Valladolid has taken the lead.