All Regions are equal, some are more equal than others.

As Spain moves on with the coronavirus pandemic, old regional divides threaten the country.

On Monday 11th May some provinces in Spain will move to phase one of the national easing of quarantine. There are four set phases for the de-escalation of quarantine regulations, at the moment most of Spain is in phase zero. The Ministry of Health reviews applications from the communidad parliaments and makes a decision whether they can move to the next phase or not. This is based on the availability of ICU beds and various other factors.

On Friday evening the Health minister and chief co-ordinator gave a press conference naming the provinces and communidads that would move to phase one. 51% of the country’s’ population live in these regions.

Phase one will allow these regions to open churches to 33% capacity, bar terraces to 50% and museums, shops and cinemas to 33%. Hotels can open but not the communal areas. Certain regions are to open and some whole communidads will be allowed to ease restrictions.

A third of Spain’s deaths have been in Madrid

Madrid’s regional president, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, has been at the centre of a storm in the capital. The right wing PP president has been highly critical of the central government since the start of the crisis. Yet, she has been the subject of blunder after blunder in recent weeks.

The president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso. EFE / JuanJo Martín / Archive

Upon closing Madrid’s IFEMA campaign hospital, she was criticised by many at the event and after. Whilst she and the PP Madrid Mayor went to the event to hand out food, they were shouted at by healthcare workers saying that they did not represent them. Later they gathered crowds for a photo opportunity which was later commented upon heavily in the news.

This week, Madrid’s director of health, Yolanda Fuentes, quit her role due to the application to move from phrase zero to phase one. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ayuso later claimed that she would have wanted to remain in phase zero, but after a meeting with business leaders she decided to apply to move to the next phase. She then stated that Madrid is ready no matter what happens with the virus. It seems they are ready to put citizens’ welfare at risk at the want of business owners.

Not forgetting that the Madrid region is currently feeding vulnerable school children pizza and sandwiches.

If that wasn’t enough, even centre-right party Cuidudanos, who support the PP in the Madrid city administration, were against lifting the lockdown. No wonder, as on Friday 8th, 48 people had died in the last 24 hours in the region.

A third of Spain’s deaths have been in Madrid. No wonder the Ministry of Health rejected the application.


The National Congress heats up (for no reason)

All this may have not been possible if it wasn’t for Cuidudanos voting for the State of Alarm and the PP abstaining. Spaniards level of despondency towards their political caste rose midweek as there was a key vote in the Spanish parliament on Wednesday. With the drama building up to it, it seems as if the politicians forgot that there were still hundreds dying every day.

Spanish law requires the state of alarm to be voted on every two weeks. This allows the central government to restrict citizens’ movements and remove powers from regional governments. Last week the regional leaders claimed they would not support an extension of the state of alarm. This would make the governments plan more difficult as each region would regain the right to manage their own healthcare. Spaniards would also be able to move between regions.

Vox claim that the government is abusing the powers of the state of alarm. They have requested an investigation from the constitutional court which has been accepted. Regional parties, including the ERC (Catalan Left Republic) who supported the government in forming, and Juntas Por Catalonia would vote against it with Vox. Right until the vote on Wednesday, the government was patching together support for the extension.

Eventually they managed to get it passed with the help of Basque regional party PNV, various regional Canaries parties and Cuidudanos. The PP abstained after many warnings from its leader that this would not happen again.

The hot air being blown from the opposition parties is frustrating and may not work in their favour as the majority of Spaniards continue with the lock down. The polls show that Casado and Abasacl are both scoring 2 out of 10 on opinion polls. However, whilst remaining critical, Inés Arrimadas, Cuidudanos leader, seems to have improved her ratings and working with the government seems to be paying off.

Meanwhile, the coalition government seems to be getting along. This week in an interview with the Financial Times, Pablo Iglesias said that the coalition could last longer than 4 years and he also hinted that the government should have acted sooner. (Read about 8M here)


Spain’s oldest problem

It seems like Spain has more politicians than postmen, and its regional politics are an endless source of fights and frustration for the country.

Inter-party politics have played a big part in this crisis. From the left arguing behind closed doors, the right battling for each other’s votes and regional parties trying to get the best for their region. Centralising healthcare and managing it from one point have been a success so far but is threatened by the unstable politics in the country.

The regional disputes that have haunted Spain since before the Civil war, during it and after, have never gone away. For many years regional parties have been able to prop up governments and play king maker. The two bigger parties, PP and PSOE, have both used regional parties to support their national government. Often, as in politics, in return for something else.

Then, another fight in the same arena is the bigger parties using the communidads for their fights on a national level. As the PP are using the Madrid administration to criticise the central government now.

It seems like Spain has more politicians than postmen, and its regional politics are an endless source of fights and frustration for the country.

With three levels of administration it is no wonder the reporting of covid-19 cases has been variable and has tested the country’s ability to manage things that affect it on a national level.

There are several solutions to this ever-lasting problem, yet many politicians seem unwilling to change the monstrous system that remains a huge arena for nepotism.

Spain’s elections are made up of party lists. Each party ranks candidates into a list for each region. When a citizen votes, their vote goes to a party, not a person. Depending on the percentage of votes, each party is allocated a number of seats, these are given to the ones at the top of the list. Politicians are not as accountable to their citizens in Spain because of the list voting system, the politicians in turn are accountable to their parties who put them on the list, not the people who vote for them.

One party that has tapped into this level of frustration is Vox who want to ban regional parties and centralise the majority of things. On the other end of the spectrum is the United Left (IU) who propose a federal state-based government.

The mess that is Spanish regional politics is not going anywhere and just adds another layer of complexity to an already ideologically ripped country.

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