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Spain faces its own challenge in finding decisive leadership

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Spain faces its own challenge in finding decisive leadership

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Supporters of left-wing Podemos hold sheets reading ‘yes’ during a previous general election on 20 December 2015 AFP/Getty

It may be comforting, after a fashion, to reflect that Britain is not the only European power to be suffering from a degree of political uncertainty. Though still firmly committed to the European Union – which has helped secure long-term prosperity and political stability in the country – Spain seems also to be having a little local difficulty in governing itself too.

The recent general election gave some encouragement to the old politics, as the conservative Popular Party regained some of its lost ground. But the PP is still some way short of a majority in the main legislature (though with a markedly stronger showing in the upper house, the Senate). The Spanish socialists, once a dominant force, have managed to retain their second place – albeit on a historically low vote.

Less cosily for the Spanish political establishment, the insurgent protest party Podemos, augmented by a merger with a rainbow of other, smaller, oddball splinters, seems firmly established as the third force in Spanish politics, a destabilising influence that has even made remarkable inroads in the Basque country and Catalonia, at the expense of the respective separatist parties there.

As in much of Europe, there is continuing resentment about the “old” parties and against political elites, for the simple reason that so many people have seen so little improvement in their living standards while they watch those who rule them enjoying the fruits of office and power, sometimes corruptly. That is the fundamental foce behind so much that we see, a sort of delayed-action effect of the economic crisis that began in 2008.

As an aside we may note that, thankfully, the status of Gibraltar does not seem to have been much of a live issue, though with the Brexit vote the Spanish foreign minister has taken the opportunity to lay down a further marker on Spain’s territorial claim, now that what he termed “a new panorama” has opened up on The Rock.

As in Ireland lately, and Germany before that, the fracturing of a traditional party political structure in Spain may lead to some sort of arrangement between the two major parties, born of necessity rather than choice. All across Europe many of the old certainties are disappearing, and at a bewildering pace.

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