Collapse in Support for Democracy

August 6, 2013 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

One-off opinion polls can be dismissed: but when various polls from different sources set a trend, we have to look at them very seriously indeed. Over the past months I have written a number of articles for the London Progressive Journal reflecting the collapse in Spanish people’s trust in their politicians, the political parties and now, most worrying of all, in democracy itself.

Several weeks ago, a survey by Transparency International reported 86 per cent of Spaniards believed their politicians to be corrupt. Now the latest poll from Egopa covering Andalucía suggests they are fast giving up on democracy too. If you remove democracy, what do you have left: a dictatorship?

The Egopa study carried out by a division of the University of Granada showed that the people of Andalucía take a negative view of politics. Indeed in July 74.5 per cent voiced a negative view of politicians and their parties, the highest level since surveys began in 2007. It is also very close to the Transparency International findings for all of Spain.

The most serious problem is that the disenchantment on the part of the public with their politicians has now transferred to a disapproval of how democracy itself functions. Of those questioned, 83 per cent say they had little or no satisfaction with the functioning of democracy, a level that has grown significantly since 2008 when the figure was just 35 per cent.

However, the positive news for the opposition PSOE is that if elections were abruptly held in Andalucía, which has its own regional government, the socialist party would win with 36 per cent of the votes. This gives them a seven point lead over the centre-right Partido Popular (PP), which has been rejected by voters due to their mishandling of the country’s economy and the fallout from the Bárcenas corruption scandal. The PP would take just 29 per cent of the votes, with the far left Izquierda Unida (IU) the biggest gainers riding high on 18.7 per cent.

The fall in grace of the PP has been dramatic; down to just 29 per cent from a survey level of 48.9 per cent in the summer of 2011. The PSOE vote is slightly up, from 34.3 per cent, over the same two year period. Far left Izquierda Unida has tripled its support over the same period.

The “political sympathy” level for the IU now exceeds that for the PP (15.8 per cent versus 13.6 per cent) but both are behind PSOE on 29.5 per cent.

If an election were held now, only 50.7 per cent of people in Andalucía would bother to vote, the lowest level since 1982. The performance of the PSOE – IU Andalucía coalition government is rated as either bad or very bad by 58 per cent of Andaluces, the highest level since these surveys commenced in 2007. When you look closely you can seen that approval ratings for all parties are frighteningly low: the fact is Spaniards have turned their backs on all politicians be they right, left or centre.

This disillusionment with politicians and democracy is a very toxic mix indeed. As it currently stands, there is a Spanish Government largely out of control and listening to nobody including its own people and party.

The current crisis between the Spanish Government and Gibraltar is not perceived by Spaniards as being over the sovereignty of the territory but as a frantic attempt by Madrid to distract attention away from the Bárcenas corruption scandal than envelopes the PP and the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Bárcenas was the PP’s treasurer who had millions stashed away in secret bank accounts abroad. Rajoy, who supported his treasurer, is mired in the perception of corruption. Bárcenas insists he made illicit payments to Rajoy and other top politicians of the PP. Because Bárcenas refuses to resign, the Prime Minister is isolated by the other parties in Parliament.

In a Spain of record high unemployment, a severe economic crisis, thousands upon thousands losing their homes but still owing the banks money, countless homeless, the need for communal kitchens to feed hungry men, women and children, food banks for disadvantaged families and used clothing for those who have nothing, Spaniards are not going to stand by and let their corrupt politicians get away with it.

They see the attempts by Rajoy and his Foreign Minister Margallo to confront Gibraltar as a cheap attempt to divert their attention. As one Spanish newspaper asked on Saturday: Do they think we are stupid? No, Spaniards are not but they are very angry indeed and their politicians will pay the price. The question is: if democracy goes, what then?


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This post was written by David Eade

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