Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Spanish media is speculating that Spain may be only the first European country to bail out of the Coalition. Holland, Denmark, and Portugal are signaled as most likely to chicken out too. I doubt any of those countries will follow Spain's lead.

Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro, in La Vangua, claims to have talked to the Spanish diplomatic corps and reports that "there is a feeling of relief and satisfaction among many diplomats. Many believe that Spain must act quickly so that the Iraqis never feel again that we are the occupiers of their land. Spain was already in the crosshairs of the Islamic fundamentalists before the defiant military mission in Iraq."

So if I get this right, the Spanish diplomatic corps and Tikrit Tommy believe that Spain's position even before Spain's joining the Coalition in Iraq was too extreme, and Spain's Coalition membership was "defiant"; I assume they would have preferred a more anti-American and anti-Israeli posture. I'm for defiance, myself. Against the ETA and against Islamic terrorists and against every other kind of murderous thug. As Tony Blair said, we can't solve all the problems of the world, but we should at least try to fix those we can. Right now ETA and Islamic terrorism are among those we can fix.

Or of course, we could just surrender.

We don't have to worry about an immediate Spanish pullout from Iraq. Jose Maria Aznar will remain as Prime Minister for approximately the next month and a half, until the end of April or so, while the new Parliament is being constituted. Within that time Colin Powell and Jack Straw (I wouldn't send Rummy on this particular mission) will have time to fill Zap full of some facts and twist his arm a bit. Zap promised he wouldn't bail out if the Coalition forces were put under UN control before June 30. I imagine that some genius may figure out how to do this so Zap can feel comfortable, with his conscience clear, and the Yanks and the Brits can keep running things militarily.

This is, of course, a highly optimistic analysis.

Note, by the way, that the fervor of "Tell us the truth" and "We want all the information" and "The Government's covering up" and "Aznar lied" is all gone today. There are no "spontaneous" demonstrations in the streets and no hysterical leftist politicians on TV screaming denunciations of the Government. They seem content for the investigation to continue normally now. That's because the election is over and the demonstrators and politicians got what they wanted: a PP defeat. That's the last you'll hear about their concern for the victims and their demands for justice.

Zap is going to govern from the minority: that means his cabinet will be made up only of Socialists and he will make temporary alliances with other parties in Parliament in order to get legislation passed. That means smaller parties will be able to hold him up to swap favors to their special interests for the votes he needs to get major things, like say the budget, through. This will be a weak central government, which may not be all that bad a thing. Zap won't have enough power to, say, renationalize the phone company or anything goofy like that.

To put a good face on it, maybe Convergence and Union will have enough weight with its 10 seats in order to significantly moderate Socialist policy on every issue but moderate Catalooniness.

According to Jordi Barbeta in the Vanguardia, the Europeans are just thrilled, at least the Frogs and the Toads. They see the Spanish vote as a rejection of Spain's alliance with America and a signal of its desire for a closer relationship with the Continental powers, which is exactly what it was. If Zap actually lines up Spain behind the Germans and French on EU and international issues, as shows every sign of doing, we'll have to find another amphibian for the Spaniards' nickname: I propose the Newts. Sounds like "neutral". Or "neutered".

Here's Eusebio Val in the Vangua:

In the US the defeat of the PP is interpreted as the electorate's punishment for a government too closely aligned with the Bush administration and as a protest for its support of the war in Iraq.

Spanish internal politics are too complex and unknown to them in order to take into account other reasons that may explain what happened. Therefore, the analysis of the result has been made from the point of view of its international repercussions and security policy.

Mr. Val, may I be blunt? My ass. Your own newspaper, on page 21, publishes the results of the major newspapers' electoral surveys taken the weekend before the bombings and made public on Sunday, March 7, four days before the bombing. Those results were, giving the best possible vote for the PSOE and the worst possible vote for the PP out of the 350 seats in Spain's Congress of Deputies:

La Vanguardia: PP 162, PSOE 147.
El Pais: PP 168, PSOE 141.
El Periodico: PP 169, PSOE 140.
La Razon: PP 171, PSOE 141.

These were the worst-case scenario results for the PP and the best-case scenario results for the Socialists. The question that all you newspaper geniuses were debating was how much the PP was going to win by and if there would be another absolute majority of 176 PP seats or not. All the leftists in El Pais were getting ready to crow victory should the PP score 175 seats or less and lose its absolute majority.

Actual results: PSOE 164, PP 148.

Now, you tell me what happened between Sunday, March 7, and Election Day, Sunday March 14, that might have affected those results.

On page 14, the Vanguardia points out four domestic issues that will be affected by the victory of the Socialists: the water plan that would have sent Ebro River water south is dead; the teachers' unions will take over the educational system again, throw out the PP's LOCE (Law for Quality of Education), and bring back the old, failed Reforma system; more money will be spent on health care, as much as an extra percent of GDP, and research on embryonic cells will be permitted; and, wishful thinking, more pork-barrel cash will flow to Catalonia.

It does not seem to me that any of those issues decided more than about seventeen votes.

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