The vote tomorrow in Spain is quite remarkable although not for the reasons that your average pundit will advance. The result is well known, the only question remaining for tomorrow is whether the Partido Popular will get a majority of its own in the Cortes. No, the remarkable in that election is elsewhere.
First, when we see the disasters in Italy and Greece, disasters that not only Spain seems to have escaped so far (the political disaster, not the economic crisis, mind you) we get the tale of a country where democracy and institutions seem much better entrenched than what one would have predicted not even a couple of decades ago. And this election seems to confirm that the Spanish political system is not ready yet to give itself up to the first Berlusconi that shows up, or to your average Greek-like pimp leadership.
Which brings us to the second point, the failure of the "indignados" (who seem to be floundering equally fast in the US). Offered with a golden opportunity to effect the electoral results, the vacuous and nihilistic protests that started at the Puerta del Sol has preferred to talk of "participatory democracy" instead of actually participating in the political game. Sure, there are certain complications with the Spanish system, there is a certain self styled moral ground, but opportunities to make your point count did not lack. We could have heard for example a call to vote for regional parties or independents, swelling their results. Or the indignados could have decided to all go and vote for a small party, which are not lacking. This way at least the indignados would have proven that they mattered. Instead the result they achieved is to push the PSOE and PP to the center as the need to face the economic crisis simplifies the debate and kills ideology, regarless of who is leading the pack. Paradoxically by trying to sabotage the Spanish consensus the indignados may end up reinforcing it and postpone the creativity that is so lacking in the West these days.
The thing also we can admire in these elections is that the expected majority of the PP is not frightening. The PSOE is already behaving as a cool loyal opposition, regional movements are getting used to the idea that they might not be able to blackmail Madrid anymore. Except for threats to overturn the gay marriage in Spain (which would be a tremendous mistake if the PP were to attempt it) nobody is concerned anymore about the not so cryptic Franco legacy still existing inside some PP minds. You just need to look at the Spanish state TV, TVE and its affiliates and be envious of the balance expressed there. I am not afraid to write that the TVE is better than BBC or the French state equivalents, probably much better than PBS in the US as the governments in Spain are not afraid to finance it enough to make it available and entertaining too, in addition of informative. If there is a TV networks for intellectuals today, that one is TVE.
It is certainly possible that a PP government might try to influence TVE, but I have the feeling that this is not possibel anymore, beyond the natural desire of some journalists to play nice to the government just to get a few scoops for their career advancement. In a country which has the best public TV, there are also some of the best newspapers now in the world such as El Pais or ABC or El Mundo which are able to embrace their side while keeping enough objectivity and criticism to allow themselves to be read by the other side without insulting their intelligence. I may be naive but truly I cannot imagine as I type how what Spain achieved could be seriously challenged by a Rajoy government, probably less militant than the Aznar one was 10 years ago.
As I watch with envious pleasure the Spanish democracy playing a master's lesson, I cannot fail to want to weep at the latest dismal crap from Venezuela. Just from the state media we get this obscenity today: the vice-president of the republic, Jaua, said that "the right will never return to power", as reported by AVN. There a few loonies in Spain too, and some say that were the PSOE to retain office tomorrow apocalypse shall surely befall Spain. And yet among these loonies I do not detect the idea that the PSOE should never be allowed to return to office. True, the longer they stay in the opposition benches the happier all Spaniards would be but the idea of the PSOE being barred from office on a permanent basis is unheard of, and certainly would never be expressed as blithely as Jaua expressed it today against any opposition, present or future, to Chavez.
But then again Spain is now a democracy and Venezuela is a banana fascism. Let's just hope that when we finally make our transition from Chavez fascism to our new democracy, the one we'll get will be as vibrant and exemplary as the Spanish one.
PS: one interesting thing to watch for those who follow Spanish politics up close is the score that UPyD will make, if it reaches 5%.