Spain after the elections: the ‘Germany of the south’?

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Series Details November 2011
Publication Date November 2011
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Spain voted in a general election on 20th November 2011, in the jaws of the two great issues facing Europe: the financial crisis and the Arab Spring. The outcome of the election would affect whether Spain plays a crucial role in helping Europe deal with both crises, heal divisions between northern and southern Europe, and bring stability and reform to the EU’s southern neighbourhood.

In this ECFR essay by José Ignacio Torreblanca and Mark Leonard – ‘Spain after the election: the “Germany of the south”?’ (written before the election) – the authors set out how a new Spanish government under Mariano Rajoy can come up with a credible plan to deal with Spain’s problems that also helps the rest of Europe.

+ Polls suggest a heavy defeat for the socialist government of José-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, with victory for Mariano Rajoy and his Partido Popular.

+ Spain faces three main challenges:
1. Economic – Spain is firmly in the line of contagion, with very high unemployment and an overinflated real estate bubble;
2. Political – Spain needs to restore credibility to remain on the right side of any 2-speed Europe;
3. Foreign policy – Spain’s interests as a strategic Mediterranean power mesh with Europe’s interests in the region.

+ Rajoy has a credible plan to ‘shock and awe’ financial markets with austerity measures, budget cuts and structural reforms that sell Spain as a 'Germany of the south' and point Spain back on a course of economic growth.

Although the Spanish election coincides with the 36th anniversary of Franco’s death, very few issues in these elections date back to the Franco era. They date back to the Europeanisation that Spain has witnessed since joining the EU in 1986.

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ESO: Background information: Spanish general election, 2011

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