The two traditionally dominant parties (social democrat and conservative) below 30% of the vote or nearing it. Leftist coalitions strengthening. And staunchly nationalist parties in unchecked growth. The Greek scenario is starting to become familiar to Spaniards, even if only in opinion polls recently released by polling organizations Metroscopia and Celeste-Tel (thus, evaluating the impact of the Spanish banking and debt crisis in 2012). The flag of Spanish nationalism had been traditionally better raised by Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party (PP). But a rapidly growing contender is now trying to dispute PP’s hegemony in this role.
Quasi-newcomer UPyD (which stands for Unión, Progreso y Democracia, Union, Progress and Democracy) is a party established in 2007 by former Socialist MP Rosa Díez (in the picture; image by Macalla). UPyD got its first remarkable success in 2008 Spanish legislative election, when Díez herself was elected as the first-ever UPyD MP in the Congress of Deputies with a Spain-wide share of 1.2% of the vote. Only one year later (European elections) the figure raised to 2.9%, and in 2011 (Spanish Parliament snap election) it grew up to 4.7%, resulting in 5 MPs.
Previously mentioned opinion polls show that Díez’s party growth seems far from stopping: as of July 2012, loses by PP seem to be mirrored in gains by UPyD. In November 2011, Rajoy’s party got an impressive 44.6% of the popular vote, achieving an overall majority. Seven months later, they are like to receive only 30 to 34%. In an inverse trend, UPyD would double their share and get 9 to 10% of the vote.
Let’s travel to Greece now. At this point, it is interesting to remind that one of the electoral outcomes of the Greek crisis has been the emergence of two strongly Greek nationalist rightist parties. The first one, now widely reported Golden Dawn, seems to have grown at the expense of another previous extremist party, LAOS. But it is likely that the second one, Independent Greeks (Anexartitoi Ellines, ANEL), has done the same at the expense of New Democracy (ND). Having been established only in February 2012, ANEL soon raised the flag of Greek nationalism (its founder and leader, former ND MP Panos Kammenos, called for a “national awakening and uprising” as an answer to the “national tragedy” Greece is suffering) and made it to the Greek Parliament with 33 MPs (10.6% of the popular vote) in May election, followed by 20 MPs (7.5% of the vote) in June election.
Brothers in state nationalism
Have ANEL and UPyD similar ideologies in social terms? Not necessarily. It seems to me that, in Spain, an ANEL-like party could more easily come out from a conservative, anti-European sector of the PP. What I rather say is that both parties are taking advantage of the crisis situation to create their own electoral base through an impassioned discourse painted in the colours of state nationalism. UPyD and ANEL are different parties with different origins, but they are fulfilling a similar role in this sense. But the ways of nationalism are inscrutable, so while Kammenos speaks about “those who betrayed Greece” by accepting the bailout terms imposed from Europe, Díez focuses on criticising “elephantine and unworkable” Spanish system of autonomies, which is made up of “17 mini states”.
Even if it might be true that some of those “mini states” are difficult to explain in rational terms, it is noteworthy that Díez disproportionately pays her attention to a few of them. Her native Euskadi is one of her favourites, thanks to the fact that, together with Navarre, this autonomous community has a much greater degree of fiscal independence than the other territories in Spain have. Low unemployment rates and high GDP figures prove that Euskadi and Navarre enjoy relatively well-off economies. Instead of proposing to extend their system to other autonomous communities that could also benefit from managing their own resources and, thus, create wealth, UPyD proposed in March to remove the special “privileges” of both territories. The principle of subsidiarity seems far from UPyD’s thought.
UPyD is convinced that the crisis gives the party a big opportunity to deepen its nationalist bid through further targeting the system of autonomies. Not only it is advocating for the end of fiscal self-management in Basque territories, but Rosa Díez is now directly asking the government to have recourse to Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution so that “the orders to the authorities of the autonomous communities are given by the government of the state”. In her view, this would be an interim measure: the final goal being a “constitutional change” that would take powers in education and health away from the autonomous communities, powers that would be retaken by the Spanish central administration.
ANEL and UPyD experiences during crisis time prove that state nationalism can have multiple disguises, apparently very different one from another. But, in the end, a common goal is always easily detected.
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