Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

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andalucia
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Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby andalucia » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:51 pm

Hi there, I thoght forum members might be interested in my guest blog post on the Andaluca.com website. Hope you enjoy it and looking forward to comments.
regards, Chris Chaplow


This Sunday elections for the Junta de Andalucia (Andalucian Parliament) will take place. A president will be chosen, who will then form a government responsible for an annual budget of €33 billion and an ever increasing range of public services.

This campaign has been relatively low-key, as it is the third time Andalucians have been called to the polls in the last 10 months, following local elections on 25 May last year and national elections on 20 November.

Although I probably understand Andalucia and its politics better than many, having lived here for 22 years, and run a business for 16 years, like other EU nationals I will not eligible to vote in these elections. In the UK, by contrast, EU-national residents can vote in devolved parliamentary elections such as Wales and Scotland.

The PSOE (Socialist) party has governed Andalucia since its first elections as an autonomous community in 1982. If the opinion polls and are to be believed, the PP (conservative Partido Popular) will win either an absolute majority of seats, or a narrow majority with the need to form a pact with another party.

The statistics
The Andalucian parliament has 109 seats, of which 55 are needed for the crucial absolute majority. The current composition is PSOE 56 seats, PP 47 seats and IU (Izquierda Unida, United Left) 6 seats.
There have been eight four-yearly elections since 1982 – the PSOE has won an absolute majority five times and governed in the others through a pact with the PA ‘Partido Andalusista’ (Andalucia Nationalists) in 1994,1996 and 2000, when the PA was rewarded with responsibility for Tourism.
The PA transformed itself into the CA (Coalicion Andalucista) before the 2008 election and, as an unfamiliar name, lost all its seats. The other party that might gain a few seats on Sunday is the UPyD (Union Progreso y Democracia).

In the municipal (local) elections of May 2011, the PP won 39% and PSOE 32% of the vote. In the national elections in November 2011, the PP increased their share to 46%, while the PSOE had 37%.
Examining the municipal election results, the PP controls all eight provincial capitals’ ayuntamientos (town halls), yet only 246 of the 730 town halls around the region. This demonstrates how rural Andalucia is the socialist heartland of Spain, with its agricultural and tourist-service economy. There are only 12 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, and one-third of the population live in villages of under 20,000.

The Junta de Andalucia: how the region has changed

So much has been achieved in the last 30 years of the Junta de Andalucia. Thirty years ago, the annual GDP of Andalucia was €11 billion; today it is about €150 billion. That is thanks to consistent annual growth rates of five to ten per cent, although since 2008 it has been practically zero, or negative. Illiteracy has been reduced from 1.3 million to almost zero. People are generally much better educated. Women’s rights and their place in society have been improved immeasurably. Healthcare meets any EU standard, as do freely subsidized prescriptions. The motorway network is almost complete and traffic density relatively low. Five international airports now transport 20 million passengers a year. Modern high-speed AVE trains connect the region to the capital, their network is being further expanded, with more lines under construction. Whatever metric you use, there has been a huge improvement in every aspect of life in Andalucia.

Strangely, however, amidst all this success, the per-capita GDP of Andalucia is still 25 points below the Spanish average. The region occupies the penultimate position of the country’s 17 regions, only ahead of Extremadura. Something has gone wrong, the structural take off has not happened and Andalucia is not the California of Europe as was promised in the eighties.

The PSOE will probably lose the election on Sunday, and the myth that “Andalucia will always be socialist” may be broken. This may be partly due to the departure of the ever-popular Manuel Chaves, former Junta president and PSOE Andalucia leader since 1990. Chaves stepped down suddenly on 7 April 2009 when he was offered a ministerial post in the Zapatero government’s Consejería de Presidencia. He apologized to the Andalucia people not only for leaving, but for doing it during Semana Santa. Jose Antonio Griñan was invested as president, but he has never enjoyed quite the same warmth nor control of the party in Andalucia, which he formally took over a year later.

Corruption and a bulging public sector

Thirty years is a very long time for any party to be in power in a democracy, and such a seemingly inviolable position causes complacency in any government, not to mention a far-too-strong party network within the Civil Service. This inevitably leads to corruption, an over-reliance on spending EU funds without necessary restructuring, an ever-increasing head count in the administration (funcionarios, public sector employees), and not paying enough attention to unemployment.
Corruption was always said to be rife in Andalucia at all levels, and many liberally accused the Junta of their share. Having said that, all the significant cases which queued up in the courts related to town hall mayors and other senior figures. The Junta were either above corruption or too clever, depending on which side you were on. That all changed in February 2011 when Francisco Javier Guerrero, ex-director of employment, testified to police about a secret €700-million fund which was being used to help companies in trouble offer their employees early retirement via a procedure called the ERE (Expediente Regulacion de Empleo). This turned out only the tip of the iceberg, as long lists of party members were given early retirement, including some had never worked for the companies in the first place. Francisco appeared in court last week and was remanded in prison on €700m bail. Unlucky timing for an election.

Another recent example of corruption in Andalucia was the Invercaria scandal. This was the Junta’s flagship venture capital company, helping start-ups in the region. An audit commission report http://www.ccuentas.es/camara-cuentas-informes.html on its 2009 accounts found that there was €21m unaccounted for; directors´ salaries were a staggering €110,000 (later reduced to €80,000); and some “employees” didn’t even work at Invercaria. The director was taped asking the then-promotions director to falsify and backdate investment reports (he refused, so she dismissed him; she resigned when the recording was played in court – you can read transcripts here). The figure quoted for missing Invercaria funds has now grown to €200m.

A recent poll on 15 March in El Mundo says that 53% of voters will be influenced by the numerous corruption scandals, including the ERE.

Paro (unemployment) is currently over 30% in Andalucia, and 35% in Cadiz province. How can this not lead to civil disturbance and crime? Perhaps only thanks to the family structure, the mattress, and unemployment benefits which are generous by the standards of any EU or developed nation. Of course, a large part of these statistics are influenced by the openly black economy. Even during the property boom of the last decade in 2007, the lowest unemployment rate in Andalucia was 12.3%.

EU funding and subsidies

Continued at http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=5651

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby annfoto » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:26 pm

Thanks for that, an excellent insight and I have bookmarked your blog.

I always find political and economic articles in English referring to Andalusia very few and far between. Historically I suppose the free papers wouldn't in the main write much about subjects such as illegal housing in order not to upset their advertisers who in the last decade were mainly estate agents selling dodgy properties.
Ann

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby hillybilly » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:29 pm

Thanks for that Chris! Even though we can't vote it's good to have the background info and facts :thumbup:

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby gruff » Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:07 am

Yes, thanks Chris. As a non-resident I tend to miss these occasions and the politics involved.

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby Julie » Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:55 pm

Interesting read, Thanks :)
No soporto ver la casa sucia, ahora mismo me levanto y apago la luz.

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby avellana » Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:20 pm

Thanks for this.
Even though we can't vote we are affected by what happens.
I'm hoping UPYD gets some seats and believe that PP will gain control.

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby Technobear » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:33 pm

Thank Chris, Im new to Spain, so great to read something to get some background to whats going on at the Junta.

I really wonder if the PP will reduce the size of the Junta, and make it more efficient - but fear the temptation that will reform will just mean bring in thier own

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby wildside » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:09 pm

Perhaps the question here is why as a fully legal, working, tax paying person who is not a Spanish national can't vote?

I turned up at the polling station today with a letter stating my disagreement with this strange occurrence and was politely removed from the building...

I have been autonomo for 8 years, reside in Spain, pay my taxes and abide by the laws of this country yet i don't have a say or the right to vote for or against any of the politics above the local level... it isn't my local town hall that sets the amount of tax I pay or the social security for my staff etc etc...

One thing comes to mind is that the government of Spain is maybe afraid of the incredible voting power of non nationals such as myself....? How many are there, over a million?

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby katy » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:23 pm

It's an excellent piece, particularly the last part about the money received from the European union and squandered. The PP should get in but it is by no means certain, the junta has been mired in corruption since it's inception. See up to now the turnout is very low, just over 29%.

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby katy » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:49 pm

More of the same, can't say I am suprised!

Griñán gobernará Andalucía con la ayuda de Izquierda Unida.

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby annfoto » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:56 pm

PP won 50 seats, PSOE 47 & IU 12 seats. PP won the most seats but not enough for an absolute majority. So as Katy says it will be more of the same, the PSOE ruling but in conjunction with the IU party (Izquierda Unida).

Interestingly the IU are a fairly left wing almost communist party who support the general strike on the 29th. I was beginning to think that the strike would be a bit of a non-event but it might be interesting to see what happens :think:
Ann

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Re: Andalucian Regional Elections: the background

Postby country boy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:38 am

A bad day for Andalucia, power now is effectively in the hands of the communists....wonderful! :crazy:


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