It’s hard to ignore the ubiquity of eucalyptus in Galicia, especially on the coast. Introduced to and spread throughout the region as a cash crop for paper pulp, a eucalypt plantation is low-maintenance and fast-growing. It’s also notoriously fire-prone and a scourge for autochthonous flora and fauna. With so many Galicians having emigrated to other countries or the cities, agricultural labor is sparse in the rural areas and it’s easy to see why land owners would plant it.
Forest fires, usually intentionally set, worry many in the area. Most of Galicia has been under “extreme” fire risk for the last few days. There are even Twitteraccounts to monitor bombeiro activity.
After a few days camping around Portomarín and Sarria, I’m back home and have a few points to summarize the results of the Galician elections.
Feijóo’s fourth and “last” absolute majority will probably springboard him back onto the national stage and replace Pablo Casado as national leader of the Popular Party (PP).
The Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) overtook the Socialists (PSOE) as the lead opposition. Though they carried five of the seven Galician cities, in the rural areas, I saw much fewer campaign posters from Caballero’s socialists than from Feijóo or Pontón.
Galicia en Común collapsed and is left out of parliament. Outside of BNG, for whom my household voted, I’m partial to their ideas but they aren’t popular and have only fared worse with each election, regional or national. Leftism, at least those projects implicitly holding a centralist message in Spain, doesn’t seem to be working.
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.
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.
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 internationalanglophone 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.
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.
Does Caballero’s PSdeG–PSOE or Pontón’s BNG come in second to lead the opposition in Parliament?
Given BNG’s rise during the campaign, how well does Galicia en Común fare? Do they lose half their seats?
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?