Galician Elections 2020 for Anglophones

As I rest my brain from reacting to the failed state of the United States; its ineptitude at controlling the coronavirus given ample time, money, and other country’s experiences to prepare, rising unemployment, continuing police brutality against people of color, and an uninspiring democratic challenger, I look toward things closer to home. My partner, who is Spanish, cares little for politics and I truly can’t blame her. But in the interest of things Galician, especially written in English, I’d like to preview the upcoming regional elections this year.

Election Day is today, when people head to the polls under less-than-ideal circumstances. The elections were supposed to be held in early April, alongside the Basque Country (Euzkadi) elections. President Feijóo postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic. Vote by mail requests nearly doubled from 2016 for obvious reasons. For Americans who are used to years-long affairs, these are quite short. I only started noticing campaign posters two weeks ago.

Map of Galician municipalities and provinces via Wikimedia, heavily motivated by me.

There are 75 seats in the Galician Parliament for the four provinces. Each province gets 10 seats with the remaining 35 distributed according to population. In the last regional elections in 2016, the seats were distributed thus: A Coruña (25), Pontevedra (22), and Lugo and Ourense, our province (14 each).

Every party puts forth a list of candidates for each province, with their respective head of list, cabeza de lista, as their priority candidate. After the votes are tallied, parties are awarded a number of escaños, seats in the Galician Parliament depending on its vote share. If a party doesn’t cross a 5% vote threshold in that province, they don’t win any seats.

Other than being a multiparty parliamentary system, what interests me is this list system. Voters vote party, rather than a particular candidate. And a head of list or other candidate could theoretically win a seat to represent the province by voters from out of their immediate area.

There are numerous parties contesting the Galician elections in 2020 and I’ll highlight a few of them.

Welcome to the Parties

Status Quo and Insurgent Parties

Partido Popular de Galicia (PPdeG)

The Popular Party of Galicia is the conservative, center-right party that has governed Galicia since 1989 aside from 2005-2009, when a coalition between PSOE and BNG briefly held power. Unfortunately, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the current president, is expected to retain an absolute majority, despite his old ties to a Galician drug smuggler, despite funding cuts to public education, despite cuts to public health, etc.

Partido dos Socialistas de Galicia (PSdeG–PSOE)

The Socialists’ Party of Galicia, like its national formation which heads the Spanish Government in coalition with Unidas Podemos, is not much socialist as it is the traditional center-left party. Think Democrats, my Yankee readers. While it is true that they defend universal public health, there are still elements within PSOE who are very amenable to business and capital. Gonzalo Caballero from Pontevedra has been leader since 2017. Without reading up on him so much, he seems to have become leader in circumstances like president Pedro Sanchez, that of a prodigal return.

O Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG)

The Galician Nationalist Bloc is a at once a left-wing and nationalist party with Ana Pontón as its spokesperson. Different than the Catalan independentists, BNG calls for further autonomy for Galicia, recognition as a historical nation within Spain, and promotion of the Galician language. It was formed in the eighties by communist and socialist parties that were in favor of more home rule for Galicia. After reading even a quarter of Castelao’s Forever in Galicia, I am pretty partial to his and their ideas of true federalismo, something that a plurinational Spain would do well to adopt to better serve its diverse population.

Galicia en Común (GeC)

Galician in Common-Anova Mareas is the Galician left-wing coalition of Unidas Podemos, the once-fabled protest-turned-party that burst onto the electoral scene with wins in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Democratic socialist, anti-austerity, left populist. The national party are in coalition with PSOE in the national government and Communist Party and United Left ministers Alberto Garzon and Yolanda Díaz being in government is a good thing. The Galician bloc has incorporated various municipalist movements, or tides, mareas, from the 2015 local elections. After former spokesperson in Congress Yolanda Díaz joined the government, Anton Gómez-Reino from A Coruña has been at the helm. Unfortunately for Unidas Podemos at the national level and Galicia en Común at the local level, support has diminished in favor of PSOE and more probably BNG

Far-Right Populists and Weathervane Right-or-Left-of-Center Neoliberals

There is of course Vox, the far-right illiberal party that became a powerbroker in the Andalusian elections of 2019 and helped the first non-socialist Andalusian president gain power there. Anti-immigrant, deniers of gender violence. A lot has been written about Vox’s threat to Spanish democracy in the international anglophone press. Since it is my blog, I don’t need to be impartial. They are like those Americans who call millennials snowflakes, threaten people of color and immigrants with violence, cry wolf about how they are being censored, that there is a vast conspiracy of globalists, that there is a culture of silence and Spain must return to some form of proto-fascism. They are disgusting.

Cidadáns, the Galician arm of Ciudadanos, or Citizens, is also a recent neoliberal party originally formed in Barcelona. Originally billed as a social Democratic party, the party has swayed left or right based on political calculation and what alliances seem to be prudent for the party given each election. The formation collapsed at the last national elections and Albert Rivera resigned as party head. I’m not sure how much support they have in Galicia. We’ll see.

Smaller Parties

What’s Going to Happen?

We won’t know for sure until after all the ballots have been tallied, but all major polls point to another absolute majority for PPdeG and four more years of Feijóo. What is more uncertain are a few things.

  1. Does Caballero’s PSdeG–PSOE or Pontón’s BNG come in second to lead the opposition in Parliament?
  2. Given BNG’s rise during the campaign, how well does Galicia en Común fare? Do they lose half their seats?
  3. While Vox will probably not have much support, many are hesitant to write them off completely. How much support to they have amongst an aging, more conservative population than the rest of Spain?

Monte Penamá

I’ve often seen these towers in the distance while walking in the monte but didn’t know this was Penamá, most likely the highest point in the area.

We woke up earlier to avoid the heat and hiked 2 hours to reach its “peak”, which was mostly flat and without any spectacular views, at 927 meters (3041 feet) above sea level.

The village thirty minutes down, however, has a great lookout and we even saw what most be Ourense.

I didn’t take many photos but did get this later in the afternoon while in town.

Second Lockdown for Lugo’s A Mariña

Spain had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to combat against the coronavirus. After the worst of it had passed, the government instituted a deescalation period of various phases. It seemed hasty, but for a country that never really recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and depends on summer tourism, it was clear regions were looking to return to normal, even if we qualified with it the adjective ‘new’. Now it’s back.

Public health officials from the Xunta of Galicia have closed the coastal region of A Mariña in Lugo, at least until Friday. More than 100 people have tested positive in only a few days

Within the containment zone, people are still free to move around without extraordinary restrictions, but without a good cause, no one enters or leaves A Mariña. Around 70,000 people live in the 14 concellos, municipalities there with undoubtedly many more vacationing for summer.

We knew a second wave would come sooner or later. I haven’t read anything about patient zero for this outbreak. We knew the first in March came from Madrid, which isn’t surprising. Talking with friends and acquaintances here, some of us had wished for summer of Spanish residents remaining in there autonomous communities. These regions are big enough to allow city-dwellers to escape to the countryside (sorry to La Rioja, and the North African enclaves), promote local tourism closer to home, and reduce the points of contact and potential travel of the virus.

This would have angered a lot of people, definitely some of the 80,000 madrigallegos who live and work in the capital, and eagerly await the summer months when they can relax at their beach house or return to their home villages. Not to mention the sons and daughters Galician emigrants who left for Basqueland and Catalonia while they were rapidly industrializing and Galicia was still practically a pre-capitalist society.

But as the husband of a family friend said, “It’s one summer.” We’ll see what the rest of the months brings.

Vía de la Plata Marker

On a recent walk to O San Salvador via the monte, we noticed new kilometer markers on the vía de la plata, a less known route of the Camino de Santiago. Though plata means silver, the word actually derives from the Arabic al-balat, the cobbled paving of the old Roman roads.

I haven’t yet walked the camino (rather, camiño), but it’s been on my mind lately. Rather than traverse camino frances, I’d walk the camino mozárabe starting from Granada, which meets up with the vía de la plata at Mérida in Extremadura. Along the way, one would discover Muslim, Roman, Hispanic, and Celtic histories.