Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rajoy joins the Twitteratti

We commented a few days ago that the internet presence of the main political parties was still woefully low. As if he heard us, PP leader Mariano Rajoy has opened his own personal Twitter account. Launched on Thursday, the conservative leader was quick to create a stir in the social networking world. In little over half an hour he had 2,600 followers. By Friday he had smashed the 20,000 mark and as this post is published he is heading close to 30,000.

Rajoy and his team have also been sure to avoid the pit falls that have befallen other political tweeters, many of whom it has been revealed, have not tweeted themselves but leave it up to their staff. All tweets posted by the leader himself will be followed by a signature “MR”, the rest will not, and will be written in the third person.

Finally, Rajoy’s team are clearly aware that celebrity sells, and one of the first tweets was a photo (pictured) of the PP leader on board an aeroplane with actor Santiago Segura and singer (and son of Julio Iglesias) Julio José Iglesias.

If you’re desperate to follow Rajoy’s Twitter account, you can do so here.

Díez faces challenge for leadership of UPyD

Rosa Díez, spokesman of the UPyD in Congress is facing a challenge from within her party today for the right to head the electoral lists at the forthcoming general election, and thereby become the de facto UPyD presidential candidate.

The party rules allow for any member to contest primary elections for the key posts without the need for a minimum level of support. This has allowed five members of the party to put their names forward to challenge Díez for first place in the lists for Madrid. The election will take place today, and all party members in the country will have a chance to vote.

Similar primaries are taking place in all the provinces across the country, as the UPyD seeks to establish which position each candidate will take in the forthcoming election. In Valencia, actor Toni Cantó (pictured) is seeking to head the lists.

Rajoy visits Catalonia to meet business leaders

Mariano Rajoy, leader of the main opposition party Partido Popular is visiting Catalonia today to meet with business leaders. As favourite to win the forthcoming general election, Rajoy will be fully conscious of the need to instil confidence in a region with which his party has had a sometimes difficult relationship.

The nationalist leanings of many Catalans have clashed with the solidly pro-united Spain conservative party, and Rajoy’s visit comes at a time when feelings are running high over a Supreme Court ruling which has ordered the Catalonian regional government to favour Castilian Spanish over Catalan in the education system.

Among the business leaders with whom Rajoy will hold a private dinner are the Chief Executives of banks such as La Caixa, Bankia and Banco Sabadell, and leading companies such as Repsol,Iberia and Pronovias.

The PP will be looking for a better showing in Catalonia at the general election than they achieved in 2008 – and this will be the first of several visits by Rajoy to the region during the campaign.

Spain’s political parties attempt to harness internet as electoral tool

Ever since the Obama campaign ignited America thanks to its creative use of social networks and the internet, European political parties have tried to ape the success in their own general elections. The UK’s last general election in 2010 was billed as the “Internet Election”, but the effect of the internet turned out to be a bit of a damp squib compared to expectations, and in comparison to the 2008 US Presidential elections.

And now, with their own general election just ten weeks away,Spain’s main parties are looking to extract maximum advantage from the World Wide Web. Yesterday, PP spokesman Esteban Gonzalez Pons, revealed that his leader and presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy was fully prepared for a “Twitter debate” with the PSOE candidate, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

And this morning the PSOE themselves have launched their own internet initiative, launching a special web portal for people to communicate their “ideas, opinions, solutions and proposals”. This virtual political conference will be running from 30th September to 2nd October, and can be accessed here.

However, the political parties’ internet presence is on the whole pathetic, compared to other Western democracies. All the main parties have decent websites and tick the boxes with their Twitter pages, Facebook accounts etc, but their efforts so far have been, frankly, unimaginative.

In addition, very few elected politicians have their own personal website or blog, and there are few internet debating sites of any renown outside of those provided by the main stream media.

So although these initiatives are welcome in part of the much-needed process of bringing citizens closer to their politicians in Spain, it would be safe to assume that the internet is not going to change the course of the election in any significant way.

The first party that truly cracks the problem of engaging effectively with voters online will be set to reap the benefits

Aznar warns Eurozone faces break-up because of “bad decisions”

Former Prime Minister of Spain, José María Aznar, has warned that the European Union is facing a severe and profound crisis because of the “very bad decisions” taken by its leaders in recent years.

Speaking in Washington, the former conservative premier who served between 1996 and 2004 said: “Europe is going through a very deep crisis, but we are capable or coming out of it. There is a serious risk that the European Union as we know it today could be unsustainable [because of] very bad decisions taken in recent years”.

The “wrong decisions” of the EU which Aznar alluded to were:

–    Tying itself up in endless institutional debates which have impeded the ability to see the economic reality clearly.

–    Forgetting necessary compromises and not respecting established rules and procedures.

–    Ignoring the seriousness and the depth of the economic crisis.

These errors, Aznar suggested, could lead to the possible “disintegration” of the Eurozone.

His speech can be read in full here (available only in Spanish)

PSOE failing to emit confidence as polls point to defeat

The PSOE seems to be suffering a self-confidence crisis. As all the polls point to a huge victory for the conservative Partido Popular in November’s General Election, the Socialists are bracing themselves for heavy losses – with only die-hard loyalists such as José Bono trying to keep the flame of hope alive.

Newspaper ABC reports today that PSOE sources are expecting to lose as many as 15 of their 36 seats in Andalusia- traditional socialist heartland.

According to the paper, the party leadership is so concerned about the effects of a possible electoral bloodbath in Andalusia ahead of next year’s regional elections in the region that their presidential candidate, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, is making repeated journeys to the area to try and prevent haemorrhage.

Rubalcaba himself has done little to stem the feeling of despondency in his camp today. When asked about what he will do in the event that his party loses the General Election, he did not dismiss the question as hypothetical as politicians so usually do, but rather said that he would make a decision about his future “on the night” of the election.

The PSOE will need to rediscover self-belief, and start emitting confidence – if they do not to see a landslide PP victory in November.

Díez opens doors to electorate, bridging gap between voters and politicians

Those familiar with British politics are often surprised by the lack of a direct link in Spain between elected politician and constituent. Whereas in the UK Members of Parliament are expected to have regular direct contact with their electorate, and hold weekly “surgeries” to meet them and discuss issues, in Spain such encounters are much rarer, and the public’s interaction with politicians is more limited.

That is why the press is intrigued by the initiative of Rosa Díez (pictured), spokesman in the Congress for Unión Progreso y Democracia, to meet fortnightly for face-to-face chats with any members of the public who wish to see her.

Díez argues that starting a regular process of dialogue with citizens is good for politicians in order to keep them in touch with feelings on the streets. However, it has other attractions for politicians too.

El Mundo reports that this initiative is already reaping benefits for Díez, with positive comments from the fifteen people who met with her at her first “surgery”, One, a former PP activist, even signed up to her party.

Díez will hold her second “surgery” next week to accommodate the twenty people who she was unable see first time round due to time constraints.

More interaction between politician and electorate is always welcome, and Díez should be applauded. It remains to be seen if she will continue this initiative after the General Election, but hopefully she will, and others will follow lead.

Blanco: The polls are wrong, the people prefer Rubalcaba

Some will view it as an ostrich-head-in-sand moment. Others will view it as a loyalist defending the corner of his embattled party. Either way, the comments of Public Works Minister José Blanco this morning have raised eyebrows.

Blanco has suggested that, even though the polls are unanimous in predicting victory for the PP, he believes they also show that “everybody prefers Rubalcaba as president [over Rajoy], they rate him higher and they believe that he can be the best Prime Minister.”

“For this reason,” he concludes, “I am sure that they will vote for the man they consider to be the best to govern”.

A valiant attempt to steady the socialist nerves, but perhaps he needs reminding that Rajoy was actually rated higher (albeit only just) than Rubalcaba in the latest opinion poll for El País

PP puts job creation at heart of campaign

The Partido Popular has this morning outlined that their electoral campaign for November’s general election will centre on job creation, and they have sought to highlight how the governing PSOE lacks the political will to do the same.

At a press conference this morning, PP spokesman Esteban González Pons said: “Our intention is that the jobs that have been lost are recreated during the next parliament, and I think it should be obligatory for everyone to aspire to the same thing.”

He went on to criticise the socialist party for not aiming to create jobs. “Wanting to create jobs,” he added, “is the most natural and the best thing – and it is what the Spanish people are calling for. It seems indecent to me that a political party can present itself for election without saying that they aspire to help all the unemployed who have lost their jobs”.

Pons also used his press conference to take a swipe at the PSOE over the debate about re-imposing the Wealth Tax, saying that it was not the PP which called it “obsolete”, but rather the PSOE themselves who took it away, and now wish to reinstate it.

“The Spanish people do not need more taxes”, Pons explained. “Spain needs reform, not just Government taking more money from the pockets of citizens.”

Must read interview of Rubalcaba published by El País

El País’s excellent “In English” website is a great reference tool for those who cannot speak Spanish but wish to keep up to speed with the major developments in Spain. Today they publish an excellent interview of PSOE presidential candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

The interview covers a wide range of topics and gives a good overview of the politics that drive this man, and the direction in which he wants to take the country if he wins the general election on November 20th.

Rather than summarise it here, it would be better to read the article in full.