A self-congratulatory party election advert shown yesterday (14 October) by Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) has sparked controversy, ahead of elections due to be held in eight weeks time.
In the film, Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government are played by actors as members of a medical emergency team that “saves” Spain from bailout in 2012.
Ahead of the national elections, to be held on December 20, opposition parties have fiercely criticised the video.
In the two-minute-long ad, Spain appears as a “patient in critical situation” – but thanks to Rajoy’s intervention, the Iberian country is revived in the emergency room in December 2011. That is when he took office after defeating former socialist premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
Antonio Hernando, spokesperson of the socialist PSOE in the Spanish Parliament, said it was “unacceptable” that the government uses the seat of the parliament to celebrate a “political campaign rally,” with the video presentation. “This is a regrettable end of the current political term, there is nothing to be proud of,” Hernando insisted.
Andrés Herzog, from liberal-centrist Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD), said the PP “is the illness, not the cure” to Spain’s acute problems. “This government has nothing to be proud of. In Spain, there are more inequalities, more poverty, and the Government has created the figure of the ‘poor worker’,” he stressed. Also Cayo Lara, from Izquierda Unida (United Left), criticised the PP video and its self-congratulation tone.
This is not the first time that Rajoy has congratulated himself on turning the Iberian nation around from the situation of “near-bankruptcy” he encountered when he came to power.
Last February, when he delivered the country’s State of the Nation address, he made reference to how he had managed to resist external pressures from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, but also among his own ranks, to request a bailout for Spain.
“The easiest thing would have been to bow to the pressure, but also the most unfair, and we refused to get out of the crisis at the cost of social security or pensions coffers,” he said then. This optimistic message has been repeated, almost unchanged, since then. However, Rajoy never mentions the bank bailout Spain applied for in 2012, which also had tough conditions, among them painful cuts to public spending.
Two different faces of the same Iberian coin
The video allegory of Spain’s recovery (GDP growth is expected to reach 3.1%, according to the IMF, but then decrease in 2016 to 2.5%), launched at the Spanish Parliament, was fiercely criticised by the opposition parties.
Rajoy’s political adversaries say that even if macroeconomic figures are positive, these are not having a direct impact on the most vulnerable. More than 22% of people are unemployed – and almost 49% of youth jobless, according to the last figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Economic recovery as political instrument
As Rajoy enters the final months of his four-year term, he has pegged his re-election campaign to faster growth and job creation, and promised to have 20 million people in work by the end of his second term, from the current 17 million.
But left and centrist opposition parties, including Ciudadanos, “Citizens”, that could be key to form a new government after the elections, say there is nothing to be proud of, as inequalities have dramatically grown in the last years.
Caritas rings the alarm bell
According to a report by Caritas-Spain, 14% of the workers in the Iberian country are “poor” (with incomes of less than 7,700 euros per year). Sebastian Mora, Caritas’s secretary-general in Spain, said: “There is still a high percentage of people excluded and impoverished”. Mora added that 53% of Spanish people assisted by Caritas in the country are couples with children, saying “We see huge poverty in the families we help”.
According to a recent study by the OECD, there is a clear increase in inequalities in Spain, as household income dropped an average annual 3.5% between 2007 and 2011. Nearly 13 million people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Spain (27.3% of the population), according to a report by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN).
However, the number of rich people in Spain has grown by 40% since the crisis began in 2008. In 2014 alone, the amount of wealthy individuals rose 10% to reach 178,000 people, according to a 2014 study by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, quoted by El Pais.