You may (or may not) know that local elections have been held throughout Spain. I have talked before about how much I enjoy elections here — the campaigning is short and sweet (2 weeks only), politicians from all sides want to talk to you about your problems, and you may even be treated to a beer or free pen — OK, I’m easily bought 🙂
This election has been fraught with emotion. Unemployment is unbearably high. Overall in Spain, it’s claimed that 21% or so are unemployed, but here in Yunquera it’s much, much higher. It’s no longer just a case of having one person in your family who is out of work — it’s whole families. It has even been claimed that several families in the village are living on handouts from the church — even the limited state benefits on offer here have run out for some.
Not only are people unemployed, it’s now even worse than that. Here, they cannot see a way of ever being employed as long as they live in the village. There is a great fear that Yunquera will be drained of its young people, true death for a small mountain village.
So there is real anger. We have high unemployment. No chance of jobs in the near future. Compound this with big grants from the EU and central government for several big projects in the village: an enormous town hall; an artificial turf football pitch. This seems wasteful to people who are wondering how to pay their bills. Who wonder why so few locals were employed to work on these projects.
We listened to all the campaign speeches. The incumbents didn’t seem to have much of an answer to these (and other) pressing questions. But still. It was unthinkable that Yunquera would “go conservative”, wasn’t it? After all, Yunquera has always, always voted socialist. Memories are long here, and the punishment of Andalucia by right-wing Franco and his henchmen is well-remembered. There are headstones in the cemetery to mark these memories. The socialists had good reason to feel rather complacent.
So Kenton and I really didn’t think that the vote would turn out as it did. We thought that despite everything, despite the anger and frustration, Yunquera would still end up with a socialist mayor and council. The turnout was huge, everyone wanted to have their say. We were told that the voting turnout was expected to be as high as 90%.
How surprised we were to read last night that the conservative PP party had won the day in Yunquera. And this was repeated all over Spain, even in other bastions of socialist power such as Barcelona and Seville.
The PP has its work cut out for it. Time will tell if they fulfill the big promises made during campaigning. But to me, at this moment, and after 30 odd years of one party being in power, a change feels good.