March 16, 2004
The Massacre Which Decided the ElectionBy Enzo Reale
Italian blogger Enzo Reale, a resident of Spain, has been closely following developments there since the Madrid train bombings. Courtesy of our Italian—speaking friend Alex Frasco, we are pleased to provide our readers with a translation of his recent efforts.
First entry — March 13, 2004
The Popular party has lost. The Socialists of Zapatero defeated the majority and now they must find allies in order to govern Spain. But the defeat of Rajoy was very clear. One week ago the polls gave the popular party 176 seats in parliament: this figure would have meant a slight loss in terms of representatives (a loss of 7) but it also would have guaranteed the continuity that everyone expected.
Then Thursday's massacre changed the scene completely. In an election with record voter turnout (up 8% relative to the election of 4 years ago), driven by a wave of emotion, the Socialists go from 125 seats to 164 while the Popular Party holds onto 148.
Only three days ago Spain was brutally attacked but the message was reverse of what it should have been and the relationship between cause and effect was turned on its head. The cry from the Spanish people is sickening; they have declared that those who are responsible for the attacks are not the terrorists themselves but those who are fighting the terrorists. If this is the way we are going to deal with the worst threat confronting democratic societies, dark times indeed await us.
Second Entry — March 13, 2004
Perhaps this is a little too strong, but with a "punitive" vote against Aznar, the Spanish have basically said that the terrorists were right to attack Spain. The demonstrations of Friday now seem a faded image in spite of the enthusiasm with which they were welcomed.
Third Entry — March 13, 2004
Zapatero just spoke, naturally quite satisfied with the outcome of the election, as though he didn't expect it. He said that we will work for peace and the defeat of terror. He also said that his Spain will be a socialist one.
Wednesday evening the socialists were resigned to another four years of being the opposition party and were already preparing themselves to settle internal matters with the least charismatic leader in Spanish history. Today that same leader finds that he must govern his country in the most difficult moment since the end of the dictatorship. Zapatero concluded his remarks by saying that the power will not change. This is in fact the problem.
Fourth Entry — March 13, 2004
In order to fully comprehend what happened in this election, it's helpful to consider this fact: Esquerra Republicana, the Catalan nationalist party (the secretary of which went to meet with the ETA terrorists in order to reach a truce only in Catalonia) has gone from one seat in the Parliament to 8. This could be a decisive force in the formation of the new government.
Fifth Entry — March 13, 2004
The Popular Party gambled with victory in the final 72 hours prior to the election and in so doing made a number of serious mistakes which were evident in their handling of the aftermath of the attack. The opposition party, completely lacking in scruples, exploited the situation to their great advantage.
The first error was to initially blame the attacks on ETA and then, after the evidence started mounting, the government reversed itself. The flimsiness of the evidence on which the government based the initial explanation allowed the Socialists to exploit the subsequent reversal.
Aznar practically disappeared from the scene in the few days following the attack. This is in sharp contrast to Bush showing up at Ground Zero with a megaphone in his hands within a mere 3 days following 9/11. In Aznar's case, he was never seen in the vicinity of the attack site. He failed a basic leadership test at a critical moment, viz., he abandoned his command post.
Finally Aznar's Party allowed the impression to develop that the "spontaneous" demonstrations were spontaneous and against him. He missed the opportunity to explain who was truly behind this "spontaneity," viz., the Spanish left.
Three failures in judgment and failure to act, in a moment of trauma and instability exacted a great price from the man who had governed for 8 years during which period he took on grave responsibilities and often demonstrated great political courage.
Sixth Entry — Monday, March 16, 2004
What will happen now? It would be nice to believe that the man who governs this country will do it with the knowledge of the threat that confronts us and will act accordingly. Unfortunately, nothing that we have seen or heard in the last year and a half give us reason to be optimistic.
Until today, Spain was dedicated in the struggle against terrorism, right at the side of the great western democracies. Now it is gradually moving toward the axis of appeasement of dictators and "integrationalists" of various stripes believing to shelter itself from risk...at least until the next massacre.
Until that day, the many for whom it is always September 10, 2001, will bewilderedly ask themselves why the fanatic del de jour struck virtuous and pacifist and leftist Spain. And why the pink slip given to Aznar did not placate the vile anger of the avengers of the oppressed. Without doubt, even when the next attack comes, they will find some other justification.
The UN will be at the center of foreign affairs of the new government and expressions heavy with meaning like "international cooperation," "European cohesion," and the politics of foreign affairs will be the order of the day. The Spanish troops will probably leave Iraq, perhaps not immediately but soon. Paris and Berlin await Madrid with open arms.