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Guest Post: Are Rajoy’s Broken Campaign Promises Delegitimizing His Government?

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Submitted by Juan Luis Martin, director of Truman Factor; originally published in El Confidencial

Are Rajoy’s Broken Campaign Promises Delegitimizing His Government?

The debate on how to deal with false or misguiding campaign speech is neither new nor likely to be resolved soon, but as Europe’s economic crisis continues to deepen, and as social and political tensions rise, elemental questions of democracy once limited to seemingly distant European Union institutions are now spilling over to national governments.

In the case of Spain, broken campaign promises coupled with the notion that Brussels and Berlin may have de facto hijacked the national political process are seeding the ground for an imminent political crisis. 

Indeed, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s systematic adoption of policies that are in complete breach of the promises which took him to power only a few months ago are casting doubts on the legitimacy of his political leadership.

Broken campaign promises

"Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." (George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946)

The issue of adding checks and balances to political speech, or somehow raising the standards of society’s most pivotal decision-making process, is one that affects most democracies. 

In the United States, the issue has even been addressed through the judicial system on several occasions, yet the constitutional right to freedom of speech in that country has thwarted most attempts to regulate political speech. 

Penalizing false political promises, bringing more transparency to campaign funding, and preventing defamation and the use of manipulated data in political campaigns is a daunting task in what many consider to be the most advanced democracy in the world. 

Therefore, the subject remains open for debate while most professionals, from accountants and medical doctors to journalists and scientists, are measured by higher standards of accountability than the men and women running the government.

However, when foreign forces are seen as the cause for a nation’s elected officials to act against the will of the people – as it is now the case in Spain – the question of political legitimacy becomes a much more serious matter than the everlasting intellectual debate over domestic electoral processes.

The loss of national sovereignty in Spain

In Spain, a young democracy with a rather complicated electoral law, which also suffers from the vices inherent to two-party systems, political campaigns per se are quite meaningless in aiding voters to choose the more qualified candidate. 

However, while there may be ways to improve a country’s democratic processes (by means of requiring specific information in campaign programs by law, for example) and even when electoral system reform seems to always be present in the political debate (only no party in power has ever had the willingness to shoot its own foot), a new problem affecting Spanish democracy is surfacing at the worse possible time: the growing loss of sovereignty the single currency is causing on economically weaker nations in favor of the EU’s core.

The irony for Spain is that while its political leaders (on both sides of the dominating political spectrum) are keen on the concept of further European integration, thus to transfer national sovereign powers to an eventual “United States of Europe,” the current crisis, the constrains of a mangled monetary system, and a one-size-fits-all European economic strategy are already forcing such a transfer – without the citizen’s approval and in favor of highly undemocratic supranational institutions.

Europe’s financial crisis, its unfinished monetary union and the competing interests among its members are giving place to a new crisis of democratic nature where we now see how a country such as Finland may have more to say about the budget policy of the Spanish region of, say, Andalusia than Spain’s prime minister.

Rajoy’s U-turn

"You are masters at doing one thing and saying the opposite..." (Mariano Rajoy on Twitter, 7 November 2011)

Mariano Rajoy’s general elections campaign last autumn was simply an extension of his seven-year act as leader of the opposition: to continue to hammer the socialist government for its flip-flops and “lies” about Spain’s dire economic situation. 

In essence, Rajoy’s center-right Popular party (PP) embraced a rather moral discourse which portrayed the socialist administration as inept, unpredictable and deceitful. In addition, PP also underlined how Brussels was in fact imposing policy on former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Although Rajoy’s campaign program was scant on details, he specifically promised to lead the country out of the crisis through a reformist agenda which would empower small businesses and entrepreneurs, limit the size of the government and lower taxes – an agenda which was neatly tucked inside PP’s “join the change” (súmate al cambio) campaign motto.

On November 20 last year, Rajoy’s campaign strategy proved successful as almost 11 million Spaniards joined the change, giving PP an absolute majority in parliament.

Rajoy’s promise of change did not last long, however, as it only took him nine days into his administration to break his promise not to raise taxes and less than seven months to put the final nail in the coffin of his entire political discourse.

Fending off criticism

Rajoy has fended off criticism for his own flip-flops by pointing to his predecessor’s “legacy,” namely, that the socialist government had lied about the country’s deficit, which in turn negated Rajoy’s own program (though Rajoy never followed through on such grave accusation by demanding any type of accountability from Zapatero, and actually decorated his predecessor as per tradition). 

Similarly, Rajoy has also placed much of the blame for his U-turn on the Spanish 17 regional governments’ reckless spending (most of which his party now rules), as well as on Europe’s slow decision-making process.

Perhaps a more telling indication of Rajoy’s true motivation to act against everything he had promised may be found in his speech at the Spanish parliament last Wednesday

Once Rajoy had outlined his government’s fourth package of budget cuts and austerity measures (repeatedly citing EU “recommendations”), he sentenced: “We do what we have no choice to do, whether we like it or not… [We] have reached a point where we cannot choose not to make sacrifices. We do not have that freedom. The circumstances are not generous.”

Quite a remarkable reversal from a leader who only a few months ago defended his country’s sovereign right to decide on matters of national budget controls and deficit reduction policies, and who proudly declared that it was he who had pressured Brussels into funding the bailout of Spain’s troubled banks.

To add insult to injury, as El Mundo reported yesterday, while members of Rajoy’s government avoided specific questions about the new tax hikes made official during last Friday’s Council of Ministers press conference, a press release in English detailing unannounced additional measures was made available to the foreign press.

Calls for a referendum

While rival political leaders and the news media constantly point to Rajoy’s blatant U-turn (El País has put together a series of YouTube videos depicting Rajoy’s previous stance on the matter raising the value added tax), Wednesday’s €65bn austerity package has triggered open calls for a referendum on the government’s economic policies. 

Upon Rajoy’s speech in parliament, the leader of the trade union Comisiones Obreras, Ignacio Fernández Toxo, openly denounced Rajoy’s “democratic fraud,” demanded a referendum on the prime minister’s austerity package, and called for a massive demonstration on July 19.

Cayo Lara, the leader of Spain's United Left (IU) party group, also raised the need for a referendum, and warned that the prime minister’s budget cuts and tax hikes were akin to “pouring gasoline onto the streets.”

Rosa Díez, co-founder of the rapidly-emerging social liberal party, Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), also blamed Rajoy for “fading the hope [Spaniards] had confided in him.” (UPyD is the political party which has brought the lawsuit against Bankia’s 33 board members, including former chairman and PP heavyweight Rodrigo Rato).

On his part, Socialist party (PSOE) leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said yesterday that Spaniards felt “cheated” by the Rajoy administration, and added, “[Rajoy] is doing the opposite of what he said.”

The last thing Spain (and Europe) needs

As we warned last week, the potential for social tension boiling over in Spain is great. The general population has thus far demonstrated a stoic stance on the continuous worsening of their country’s economic environment, as well as a rather contained attitude toward the corruption scandals surrounding the Spanish financial sector. 

However, the latest budget cuts and tax hikes may push Spaniards over the limit, particularly as they begin to question their government’s legitimacy.

Should a political crisis unfold, Rajoy will not be able to put the blame on his predecessor’s “legacy,” but rather on his own broken campaign promises. All in all, the Spanish prime minister faces a seemingly impossible task: to assert his country’s sovereignty at the same time as he pushes for the diametric process of European integration that he believes will ultimately save the country.

 

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Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:38 | 2619629 Ted Baker
Ted Baker's picture

HE MUST AGO AND REPLACED BY A SPANISH EX-GOLDMAN TECHNOCRAT PERIOD

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:47 | 2619638 i-dog
i-dog's picture

He broke campaign promises purely to get elected to carry Brussels' water? Whoda thunk it!?!

Is he maybe a Kenyan, too?

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:04 | 2619660 Stock Tips Inve...
Stock Tips Investment's picture

The President Rajoy has a policy that he believes will help Spain out of this deep crisis. The economic situation deteriorated in this country too much too quickly. I think a pragmatic president must apply the policy that best suits the country. If these policies are different from those discussed in the political campaign, he shall explain to the country and move on.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:16 | 2619676 i-dog
i-dog's picture

In the private sector we have a process called "due dilligence", which we are expected to go through before making promises or contractual commitments. Maybe government could abide by the practices they expect of others?

In the private sector we are subject to the laws of "fraud", which are applied against any corporate executive who misleads shareholders by knowingly, or incompetently, issuing false statements. Maybe government could also follow the laws they make for others?

Rajoy and his highly-paid collection of economic and financial advisors knew - or should have known - exactly what condition Spain was in when he made those promises.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:04 | 2619645 Ghordius
Ghordius's picture

"Spain...suffers...from the vices inherent to two-party systems, political campaigns per se are quite meaningless in aiding voters to choose the more qualified candidate"

there, you don't need to go further than that...

----

In a two-party system, voters can only shut one party out of power, and this only for a limited time

In a multi-party system, voters can shut out a party forever.

Which system gives more leverage to the voter? And which one gives entrenched parties more leverage to sell power for money?

"Freedom to fail" sharpens the wits and improves quality.

----

the rest of the article is the usual "euro-bashing" crap - substitute EUR for gold and reread the arguments: how does it sound?

----

and don't get me wrong: the party is not too bad, the promises for change could still be delivered in part, the PM is IMO quite inept and there is a lot of corruption in Spain that is still untackled

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:42 | 2619631 deepsouthdoug
deepsouthdoug's picture

Politicans lie? 

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:05 | 2619662 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

Governments are efficient?

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:10 | 2619674 Ghordius
Ghordius's picture

+1 - though I have another one:  are households efficient?

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 09:15 | 2619842 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

Housholds are NOT efficient b/c:

A) They are instructed not to be.  I.E. my father, a cop, who was goaded into taking on debt from good 'ole Ronnie Reagan because that is what his Merrill Lynch masters wanted (my dad thankfully, filed bankruptcy before they changed the laws).

Remember Bush after 9/11: "Take on debt!  The way we defeat the terrorists is to go out and shop!"  I'll actually give Obama credit when he initially got into office, that when he told people to stop taking "vacations to Vegas" and to deleverage their balance sheets and start saving (he then backtracked after internal bashing from the Vegas mayor, and his banking and economic masters). 

David Cameron in the UK said a similiar thing (the UK has a BIGGER debt problem than the US, especially on households), and literally, after the City of London banks said "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!", he had to backtrack it as well.

B) Now, households CAN'T be efficient, finanically, to survive (unless you live in North Dakota).  They HAVE to take on debt for necessicities, like gas, food, and clothing because of the facts incomes aren't keeping up with core inflation.  Add to it that people "need" a house, "need" a car, "need" a strong internet connection and a smartphone to keep up with corporate life, so they'll have a chance to make their slave wage.

The result: we all move to North Dakota, secede, and start our own currency.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:07 | 2619666 Ghordius
Ghordius's picture

don't know - for sure in europe we have some politicians that are ashamed of lying, and some that even say that they feel they have to lie, from time to time...

put the question in a different way/category: do women lie? do men lie? my dogs don't lie...

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:45 | 2619637 overmedicatedun...
overmedicatedundersexed's picture

what's this Spain and Greece, it's all the EU, why the constant dividing of the EU people? they are all ONE. per NWO directive signed at Davos or some other elite meeting.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:56 | 2619644 Rick64
Rick64's picture

It would have been more of a shock if he fulfilled his promises. That would really be headline news. A politician keeping his campaign promises its too hard to imagine.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 07:59 | 2619653 Inthemix96
Inthemix96's picture

Jesus H christ.......

Politicians lie now do they?  The time for talk is over, these menaces to human society should be put down as the dogs they so surely are.  After these fuckers have been (select your favourite), shot, hanged, skinned alive, burnt to death, drowned, fed to the wolves, given to the people, then drawn and quartered.

We should go after the fuckers controlling them.  No wonder we are all fucked, the bastards only care for themselves and what they can gain from the gig, we matter not, lets do this folks.......  It is long overdue

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:11 | 2619672 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

The bankers (and their govt cronies) are the problem:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXpSqce2OdM

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:18 | 2619684 Inthemix96
Inthemix96's picture

Shizz,

What gets me is that so many of us know the score, when do we stop typing and start doing?  My feeling is its not far off now, but folks have to be guided to the monsters who caused this jazz.  Even now I speak to folk and they have no idea who is to blame, one bloke even said to me that it was the fault of the fucking sun???  (British newspaper who backed the tories)

The fucking sun??????????  This will not end well mate, not by a long shot

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 09:04 | 2619804 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

100% agree, mate! 

Reading the boards, you'd think you would know the score....but the majority of people really don't.  ZH is what, less than 1% of the population?  Maybe 15-20% really understand what is going on, around the world?

When I talk to people about OWS, or taxes, or the economic issues facing us today.......the majority of people, have no fucking clue.  They just parrot ideas given to them by their bigoted parents who were bred on the left/right paradigm, orideas based by the corporate biased media. 

The result of a neo-liberal, national socialist system is that not only are labor and wages outsourced, but also critical thinking.  It amazes me that incredibly smart people, people who can program computers, crunch intricate accounting formulas, and diagnose health issues.......are completely drawing dead when it comes to critically thinking about social issues and how it affects the way we live.  "Street smarts", as I'd like to call them, are absolutely non existent for the majority of society.  People are too married to ideology, and would rather be stubborn than adapt.  This explains the baby boomers in a nutshell.

Example: IT guy at my job, having agrument about OWS.  He thinks it's about them hating corporations, or paying more taxes.  "Should we just of let the banks fail? We made 'money' on the bailouts!".  This guy has no idea that yes, we made money on the bailouts......but when I lend you a $100 only to make back 0.0001 cent.....that's a bad investment, even if one made money on said investment, because the capital I could have used with the inital $100 would of grown the economy in a more healthy manner, instead of sitting on Jaime Dimon's yacht. 

People don't understand that when the cost of Milk goes up $0.05 at a rise of 20%, that everything with milk in IT, goes up 20%.  yet, god forbid when they rise the price of NetFlix.....

Basically, the system needs to crash, or another huge violent event needs to happen, to wake people up.  The world, needs a fucking vacation; to slow down, recognize problems, and root out the parasites of society (central bankers, big banks, vulture corporations, and whore politicans) at a global scale.

Sadly, the people who run things, and their loyalists, don't want that and will defend this system to the death.  So the system needs to collaspe from within for it to change, because unlike them, we aren't sociopaths (yet...if things get dire, this shit could turn into 1790s France or 1800s Haiti) and won't wrestle away from them in a violent manner.

Basically, we need the parasites to "ante off".

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 09:18 | 2619678 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

There was no need to go beyond the headline of a post. Politicians will promise the world with other people's money. Therefore , save a very select few,they are all illegitimate.

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 08:18 | 2619685 Chief_Illiniwek
Chief_Illiniwek's picture

This behavior cannot stand!  I demand a summit!  Frau Merkel:  Will you provide the refreshments?

Mon, 07/16/2012 - 09:20 | 2619866 SDS Trader
SDS Trader's picture

Tired article that is not re-tracing anything of interest.

Politicians will say anything to get into office.  Check.  Politicians lie.  Check.  Politicians do a complete reversal on campain promises.  Check.  2-party system has a lot of faults.  Check.  Spain has an entrenched, corrupt set of bureaucrats and uncompetitive industry.  Check.

We know all of this.  We know countries are being asked to cede their sovereign status in deference to the EU and the Euro.  We know some EU members are doing better than others.  Anyone who has not been under a rock for literally years knows all of this.

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