Friday, November 14, 2003

Well, the Catalan elections are building up to their grand finale, since the election is on Sunday. The weirdest thing that's happened recently is that Juan Carlos Rodriguez Ibarra, the loudmouth populist Socialist boss of Extremadura, called upon PP Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to stay on as PM: "No responsible politician should abandon ship when the country is in difficulties, and the defense of the Constitution is more important than fullfilling that little promise of eight years." (Aznar is stepping down as Prime Minister early next year; Mariano Rajoy is the PP's candidate to succeed him. Aznar promised, when first elected in 1996, that he would only serve two terms as PM and he is keeping his promise.)

That's very weird. Ibarra has just said he would prefer Aznar, the great enemy of the Spanish left, as Prime Minister, to his Party comrade Zap. This is much weirder than Zell Miller coming out in favor of Bush. It means that the Socialists have abandoned hope for any sort of victory in next year's general elections, and it also seems like an incredibly dumb move, praising the PP leader, when his own comrade Pasqual Maragall is a couple of days away from an election the Socialists have to win. All I can figure out is that the Socialist "barons" (party bosses) Bono of Castile-La Mancha, Chavez of Andalusia, and Ibarra of Extremadura want to throw Zap over the side right now so they can get a new candidate in and give him a few months to get used to the job before the 2004 general election.

Aznar has come to speak in Catalonia, supporting his candidate, Josep Pique, four times. Zap appeared in Catalonia for the first time in the campaign yesterday. But Socialist former PM Felipe Gonzalez has appeared several times in Catalonia in support of Maragall. Conclusion: Maragall thinks Zap is box-office poison.

Here's a funny one. Showman-singer Javier Gurruchaga appeared on stage, along with Zap, to support Maragall last night in the big whoopdedoo the Socialists had. Now, Mr. Gurruchaga is most notable for having been tried (and acquitted, it must be said) for having sex with underaged rent boys procured at a Sevilla gay bar / male bordello. Let me make sure we have this correct: I am not saying that Gurruchaga is a bad person because he is gay. No probs there. But while the court said he was not guilty of child sexual abuse, a lot of people are not sure that they agree with the court's verdict. Yet the Socialist Party considers this guy appropriate to appear on stage at their big party rally of the year. Maybe that's a big difference between Spain and America, but if I were a political candidate, I would not have a guy who is the moral equivalent of Barney Frank's old roommate up there on stage in order to attract people to vote for me.

Many other well-known people got caught up in this scandal. I don't remember whether the Duke of Feria was one of them. He got quite notoriously nailed for doing all sorts of perverted stuff back then, though, and went to jail for several years for acts of pederasty and the like. It's not too common for dukes to go to jail, so this was kind of a big deal. Anyway, (sick joke coming) several years ago there was a famous ad campaign for Telefonica, you know, those mushy ads they run to try to persuade you to call your loved ones at Christmas. It depicted a cute little five-year-old boy named Edu calling lots of people on the phone and repeatedly saying, "Hola. Thoy Edu. Feliz Navidad." And Dad and Mom don't get mad because it's so cheap to use Telefonica, you see. Anyway, (sick joke imminent), people went around saying, "Hola, thoy Edu, Feliz Navidad. Hola, thoy Edu, Feliz Navidad. Hola, thoy Edu, Feliz Navidad. Hola, thoy el Duque de Feria, ?esta Edu?"

Quick review of the parties in Sunday's election, in probable order of finish:

Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). Will get largest number of votes. Would prefer to govern in partnership with only ICV, but will almost certainly have to take in ERC as well. The likely winners, but ICV and ERC will extract a high price for their support. Generally a social democratic party, similar to the left wing of the Democrats in the US. Not very Catalanist.

Convergence and Union (CiU). Will come in a close second in votes, and may even tie the PSC for seats (rural area votes count more than metro area ones, as in the US). Will probably lose Prime Ministerial post after Jordi Pujol's 23 years in power. Crucially, will not get enough seats to govern with either ERC or the PP. A CiU-PSC coalition is almost unthinkable and CiU is much too conservative for ICV. Generally socially conservative, very Catalanist, and fairly social democratic economically. Like the left Northeastern Republicans if they were really nutty about traditional Vermont culture.

Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). Will come in a distant third but will outpace both the PP and ICV. Likely to be the bellwether; that is, the PSC will need them to join in a Barcelona City Council-style three-way alliance. There is an outside possibility that they will gain enough votes to be able to form a coalition with CIU. Kind of an unstable party with no fixed opinions on most social and economic questions. They really stand for only one thing, Catalan independence. Many of their voters feel emotionally akin to the left, but Catalan nationalism trumps leftism in their eyes. No American equivalent to these guys.

People's Party (PP). Will place fourth, picking up a couple of seats over last time. The anti-Catalanist, conservative party. Would be willing to form coalition with CiU but there probably won't be enough votes. Likely to wind up isolated during next legislature.

Initiave for Catalonia-Greens (ICV). They call themselves "ecosocialists". I know a Commie when I see one. These guys are trying to be "communism with a human face". Fortunately, they're going to come in last, though they also ought to pick up a couple of seats. Unfortunately, they're likely to be needed by the PSC to form a three-way coalition with ERC. They will extract a high price for their support.

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