A colossal challenge faces the regional government of Andalusia, the most populated of Spain’s regions, with 8.4 million people.
From the regional capital, Seville, Andalusia has been governed by the Socialists since the 1970s advent of democracy in Spain. This was reconfirmed in the latest elections.
Yet new parties have been elected to the parliament, determined to shake things up to bring about improvements that many people feel are long overdue.
The region represents just 5 percent of the whole country’s GDP, and yet with more than 34 percent unemployment it holds the unenviable record high of all the regions in Europe; 59 percent of under 25-year-olds are jobless.
Cristina Ortega, with a degree in labour relations, said: “I’ve been unemployed for two months. Since I came back from Italy in 2009, jobs have come and gone, temporary contracts only, three to five months at a time, the longest for seven months.”
That time in Italy was to extend Ortega’s qualifications, on an Erasmus bursary, but the return to Seville has offered nothing but discouragement.
Ortega said: “I haven’t found anything in human resources, my field of study. The only thing proposed was unpaid traineeships. I’ve got bills to pay. Working for free isn’t in my plans.”
Her rent in a shared apartment is 425 euros per month. Currently on benefits, when she works it’s part time. Then the most she’ll earn is 810 euros per month.
“I feel poor when I’ve got work. I hope to have a normal job, go in every day, earn a salary that lets me live in dignity so I can hope to start a family, since I haven’t even dreamed of that, it’s been economically impossible.”
Elisabeth Garcia is a secretary for the women and youth branch of Comisiones Obreras trade union. She explains why the economic crisis has hit Andalusia harder than any other region in Spain. She wants new policies to tackle structural unemployment.
Garcia said: “Its economy was based on services or construction, which fluctuate. It didn’t invest in other kinds of sectors which could have offered Andalusia economic potential, such as renewable energies, industry, agriculture, which are permanent and can be permanent in the future.”
Our correspondent Francisco Fuentes summed up: “Cristina Ortega’s experience is one shared by many young Andalusians who are unemployed, a real social drama in a region that has all the conditions to develop a productive economy which ensures everyone’s well-being.”
The Socialist Party’s victory, the implosion of the conservative People’s Party and the entry of Podemos and Ciudadanos into Andalusia’s parliament will alarm Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ahead of upcoming polls.
To analyse the impact of the Andalusia regional elections, we talked to Javier Perez Royo, a professor of constitutional law at Seville University. He is well-placed to observe the region and the political and social scene in Spain.
Javier Perez Royo said: “All of a sudden we discover that the People’s Party is in freefall, the king is naked. The people are saying the king is naked. Once the citizens realise that then the king must leave. It could be that Rajoy will be forced to leave in May. He might have to hit the road, quit his post, because the repudiation and delegitimisation are so brutal that the tentacles twist all over Spain, since it’s about 8,000 town halls, and all that power of the People’s Party could crumble.”
There has been a lot of speculation lately in Spain that its days of bipartisanism may be over, yet, according to Perez Royo, the watershed change actually occurred following the last European elections. Podemos sent five MEPs to Brussels.
Perez Royo said: “The major change came last May, the moment that happened, and we see in a way that it was a kind of consolidation of this mutation. Now we are going to see what path this mutation takes, this change, in all the elections in Spain set to take place this year.”
The elected President of Andalusia, Suzana Diaz, has held on to power. This demonstrates the Socialist Party’s capacity for regeneration.
Perez Royo notes: “In other words, the Socialists react, produce antibodies to be able to fight Podemos and survive. Not so the People’s Party: its immune system is non-existent, isn’t working.”
In May, municipal and regional elections will be held, elections in Catalonia at the end of September, and then national legislative elections.
“How will the People’s Party perform in May?” Perez Royo wondered.
“Will its candidates prove capable of rising to the occasion and participating in discussions? Will these people fight or are they already leaving the pitch, vanquished? Will the fight go out of them as they say, ‘this happened because of the elections in Andalusia’?”
The Socialists will need to address corruption, after courts convicted several of their officials for stealing unemployment funds.
Podemos and Ciudadanos have vowed to clean up Spanish politics.