Monday, November 14, 2011

Spanish General Election 2011....Game Over For Rubalcaba?

We don't get opinion polls in the last week of a general election campaign in Spain, they're not permitted. That explains the flood of polls we got at the weekend, and the message of these tests of public opinion was not a happy one for the candidate of the governing PSOE, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Not that anyone, even Rubalcaba, was really expecting good news from the polls; but the most depressing indicator for those dreading a Partido Popular absolute majority is that every single poll suggests a crushing victory for that party.

If next Sunday's voting fulfils these predictions then Mariano Rajoy could potentially enjoy an absolute majority bigger than that obtained by Aznar in 2000. That you would think would spell the end of Rubalcaba's career. He was the favoured candidate of many in the PSOE precisely because they thought his experience would give the party a chance of avoiding electoral disaster. As I watched him failing to make any headway against a stonewalling Rajoy in last week's televised debate I couldn't help thinking that a younger, fresher candidate might have done better against the PP's leader. At least in avoiding all the futile "you did this in 92" kind of barbs that Rajoy was able to use to avoid talking about what he might do in the future. 

As Soledad Gallego-Díaz observed in yesterday's El País, we won't really know what Rajoy proposes to do until December 20th when he is expected to be voted in as prime minister. Spain doesn't have a system where the election winners come in the day after the vote and start moving the furniture around, and Zapatero's administration still remains the interim government for a month after the election. The way things are going, that might be a long month for José Luis whose only ambition for the latter part of his premiership has been to avoid the sort of European Union "rescue" where the body still gets tossed into the ditch but the ransom has already been paid. 

It's odd, in the depths of the crisis and with the whole of Europe on the verge of another recession, that the campaign should be so completely devoid of content or controversy. This of course is the way the PP wants it to be. They don't want anything that stirs emotions, especially if it reminds people of why they didn't vote for the PP in previous elections. Rajoy gives very few interviews, and holds no official press conferences of any kind. To make sure that nobody was going off message the PP even pleaded with their supporters in social networks to surrender their accounts so that the party could bombard their followers with unwanted electoral spam. Both major parties feed their selected coverage of their stage managed rallies to the television channels and the result is a deadly boring campaign almost perfectly designed to not change anyone's voting intentions. 


Lee said...

I have some friends/former students who are journalists and they refer to this as the phantom campaign. It's a shame that Rubalcaba didn't go for broke, knowing he wasn't going to win, and rip some PP flesh. A small hopeful part of me thinks he may open up in the second debate. On the other hand, having seen the pathetically ineffectual TV ads for PSOE, I doubt it.

Graeme said...

Second debate? That won't be happening before 2015. A less predictable affair with questions allowed from journalists or a studio audience would have made Rajoy less comfortable, but the PP would never have agreed to that.