Political Change Overdue in Spain
William Pfaff Copyright Los Angeles Times Syndicate, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Next Sunday, the Spanish vote in what probably are the wrong elections for Spain today. The vote is for regional and municipal assemblies and offices. Though the result will have national significance, the country is in need of a national election to resolve an impasse with corrosive moral as well as social consequences for the country.
The problem is that the Socialist Party of Felipe Gonzales has been in power too long. It has been there since 1982 and has done much for Spain. But today it is wasted not only by corruption but by the accumulating weight of evidence that "death-squad" operations against the murderous underground Basque separatist movement were authorized at or very near the highest levels of the Gonzales government.
The result is a crisis of Spanish socialism, which came to power claiming moral authority as voice of the people and now has forfeited it. But the crisis is also to some degree one of Spain's international orientation.
There is logical as well as emotional appeal in employing the methods of terrorism against terrorists, but this subverts a nation in which the rule of law is supposed to prevail, and when it is combined with widespread governmental corruption it feeds the proposition that democracy itself is defective. Spain emerged only in 1975 from the long reactionary dictatorship of Francisco Franco and saw an attempted coup by officers of the paramilitary Civil Guard in 1981.
If parliamentary elections were held today, polls say that the main opposition party, the Popular Party, led by Jose-Maria Aznar, would win a majority of seats and could govern alone. But parliamentary elections do not have to be held until two years from now.
Optimists among the opposition leaders believe that if the Socialists lose badly in these regional and local elections they will be forced to call national elections within 12 months. Gonzales relies on the support of Catalan nationalists to stay in office and could be brought down if the Catalans decided that their interests lay elsewhere. However, Spain holds the revolving presidency of the European Union during the second half of this year, and this will provide a politically useful backdrop to the government's actions.
Aznar is criticized as lacking political charisma, but he was helped in this respect by the separatists' attempt to murder him with a car bomb April 19. …