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Outside The Bubble: Spain Marks Eight Months Without Government

Written by Thomas Kelahan

Photo via telgraph.co.uk

Since December of last year, Spain has dealt with an ongoing stalemate in their political system. In last year’s elections, a new parliament was voted in that resulted in neither major party winning a majority of the 350 seats. In past elections, the party with the majority of votes would elect a Prime Minister, generally the party leader.

This lack of a majority for either the Popular Party (PP) or the Socialists (PSOE) is due to the growth of smaller par-ties such as the anti-austerity party, Podemos (We Can), and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens). The growth of these fringe parties stems from general dissatisfaction with Spain’s high unemployment rate along with issues of corruption that plague the previous majority party, the Popular Party. In the months that followed, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other party leaders failed to reach a compromise and create a new government consisting of mixed political representation. As a result, elections were held for a second time on June 26th but to no avail. The Popular Party gained seats but failed to earn enough seats to reclaim a majority. Spanish officials will be required to hold elections once again if a compromise cannot be reached.

With this lack of compromise, many Spanish citizens are frustrated with their government’s behavior. When asked about the current crisis in Spain, Ana Garcia, a Spanish exchange student studying at St. Lawrence for the year, said “The Spanish Government has become inefficient. This can be seen in the lack of effort when forming a government. These [could be] our third elections for the first time in the history of our country owing to the fact that those who promise a better future refuse to reach an agreement with the other parties; and those corrupt people who hold the power for now leave our country full of debts and unemployment, especially for the young generations.”

In addition to the political crisis, the country is still plagued by economic concerns and high unemployment stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. According to the New York Times, current unemployment is hovering around 20 percent. While Spain has generally had a higher unemployment rate than similar countries like Italy and Portugal, it has actually decreased from its height of 25 percent 2 years ago. The number that is more concerning, however, is that of youth unemployment. As of May 2016, the number of unemployed people under the age of 25 is nearly 46 per-cent (New York Times). With nearly a third of jobs pertaining to unskilled labor in the tourist industry, many young people are leaving Spain to search for other opportunities.

José García Montalvo, a professor of economics at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabre University, elaborates on the problem faced by young Spanish university graduates. “The fundamental problem in Spain is that it generates a lot of highly qualified workers with university degrees, but the system doesn’t need them. If you’re a university grad, you have two options: compete for a low qualification job, or go to another country where there is demand.

A telecommunications engineer goes to Germany because it doesn’t make much sense that he serves beer in a bar [in Spain]” (Fortune).

While the Spanish parliament continues to work towards a compromise to form a legitimate government, it is yet to be seen if they will be able to solve the country’s economic issues including the high number of unemployed youth. For now, Spain lies in flux, within a continent that is grappling with numerous broader issues, ranging from refugees to the Brexit crisis

About the author

Thomas Kelahan