THE OBSERVER

Brushstrokes

Rivera, the shrinking leader

Ciudadanos is the party which grows while its leader shrinks. It took the appearance of Manuel Valls on the scene for a good part of the Spanish economic and journalistic establishment to see Albert Rivera decrease in political stature in comparison with Valls’ ability to do politics and make the most of a poor election result. Ciudadanos are in the midst of a crisis as a consequence of the internal rift caused by the party’s drift to the right and its deteriorating public image. The erosion of Ciudadanos’ prospects is a matter of expectations and one of the fruits of Rivera’s corrosive personality. The party received a record number of votes in the recent general election. Nevertheless, the expectations and megalomania of its single-handed leadership have turned good results into a trap. In 2016 Ciudadanos garnered 13% of the vote and 32 seats, whereas today they have 15.8% and 57 seats, yet their leader had hoped to break the bank, meaning he has fallen far short of fulfilling his objectives. Rivera is convinced he will be the prime minister of Spain and being the leader of a (more or less) liberal, king-making hinge party for some ceased to be his ambition a while back. Instead, he aims to replace the PP as a hegemonic party in order to wrestle for power, not with the PSOE so much as with Pedro Sánchez himself, who has become a kind of obsessive bogeyman for Rivera. If the human factor weighs heavily in politics, in Rivera’s case it falls like a ton of bricks on his negotiating abilities, not only when dealing with Sánchez but also with Valls, with whom the lines of communication, each from their respective battlements has lacked fluidity. Rivera has decided to split up with Valls in Barcelona, without consulting Arrimadas, and to join forces with Celestino Corbacho, an obvious spearhead of the new world political order. One of the statements made by the former French prime minister stands out: "A string of soundbites doesn’t amount to political proposals". Rivera’s pacts with far-right Vox draw the red line which neither Macron nor Valls are willing or able to cross. They are well aware of the democratic price to be paid by giving the far right a veneer of respectability.

We'll do it again

What exactly. Who? How? How many? These are the questions which a sizeable share of the public and the entire Catalan political class are trying to answer. Nobody knows what the reaction will be to the court’s ruling [in the trial of the Catalan independence leaders], or even the degree of indignation it will trigger or how harsh any sentences may be and how difficult they will be to accept. The various leaders from the various Catalan political parties are all concerned about a possible "outpouring" of indignation and the lack of leadership to direct it. Both those who support independence and the federalists are wondering what solution President Torra will offer beyond "refusing to accept" the sentence and what he means specifically by the phrase. The president has tended to surround himself with a small group of advisers, and his affable exterior isn’t politically permeable, even for members of his own government. According to more than one individual from his own party, Torra is considered "unpredictable." His role during the frantic scrabble to form a local government in Santa Coloma de Farners did little to help improve the image of his presidential authority, either inside or outside the Catalan government.

The sexual revolution

It was rape and the Supreme Court has shown that the events which took place in July 2016 could never have been seen as anything else right from the start. As of today, the justice system offers girls and women greater protection against rapists, though the sexual revolution has yet to truly arrive. Women still have to put up with violence, disrespect, the abuse of power and the interpretation of sexual harassment as a man’s right. Just yesterday, it was clear how much mental garbage exists in the public sphere. Francisco Serrano, Vox’s leader in Andalusia and a former judge, declared the ruling to be the result of pressure from the media, the public and "the supremacist, feminist mob" and rounded off his argument with the following gem: “Only when engaging the services of a prostitute will a relationship between a man and a woman be truly safe now”. This outrageous remark resonates with the most repressed, twisted sexuality of the far right. Money, power and the ability to do whatever they please with a woman. Precisely those who claim to venerate women and femininity are those who consider it to be a commodity. But it's not just Vox. One need only recall the Marquess of Casa Fuerte [MP Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo], who may end up being the PP’s spokesperson in Madrid’s Congress, in spite of the terrible election results she obtained in Catalonia. Do you remember her sarcastic comments during the election campaign as to whether it would be necessary to "keep saying ‘yes’ right up to the end"? Well, the Supreme Court has decided that a gang rape in the lobby of an apartment building in the middle of the night in which a young woman is held against her will and penetrated ten times is rape, which is punishable by a fifteen-year jail sentence. Anything else, in the words of the Marquess herself, is "nonsense".

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