Last weekend —the first in the election campaign ahead of the Spanish polls on April 28— left us some unfortunate, unpleasant scenes in San Sebastian and Bilbao, where Vox staged political rallies, and in Errenteria, at an event held by Ciudadanos. The latter also campaigned in Seville, where there was, again, too much tension. On Thursday last week the same happened at a PP event at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). It is unacceptable to have to assume that a political rally will necessarily encourage aggressive attitudes and will even see baton charges by the police.
On principle, any political party that runs in an election should be able to freely explain their policies anywhere they see fit, even if the number of potential voters there is marginal. Likewise, any member of the public should be allowed to show their disapproval of any given party or political view, in a peaceful, civic-minded manner. Given that we have not had this in the last few days and that the incidents have taken place at rallies held by Spain’s three conservative and far-right parties, we ought to take a moment to analyse it.
In any election campaign political parties explain their policies, but also look out to make the most of any image that might convey what they are offering their voters. This can be done in a constructive way: “This is what we intend to do, if we win”; or otherwise: “Watch it: this is what will happen, if we do not win”.
When the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos tour the Basque Country, they are not exactly trying to win a lot of seats there, as their support base is small. Of course they are trying to get close to their voters, but they are also hoping to get a picture that will present them as “the victims of intolerance”, a photo they can sell to their electorate in other Spanish regions where they may garner greater support.
Ciudadanos have every right to hold a political meeting anywhere they fancy in Seville, but they know very well what they are up to when they set up camp exactly in the same spot where, for the past twenty years, left-wing republican Andalusians have been demonstrating on April 14, the anniversary of the Spanish Republic.
Will these three parties cease to stage such rallies in order to avoid further incidents? It is unlikely, as that is precisely what they are after, politically speaking. Furthermore, they realise they don’t exactly need to bend over to achieve their aim.
Someone might legitimately take offence, feel indignant or be upset by certain political views, more so in the context of the Catalan independence process and while the trial is underway. So might those who fight against inequality and corruption or support women’s rights, world peace and euthanasia. Obviously, some people take matters a step further and feel that the presence of these parties in a particular village, town or place is “a provocation”.
However, having seen and analysed what happened at the weekend, having read and listened to every commentary about fake news and bias, it would be advisable to spare a moment for reflection. Perhaps the main issue with “provocation” is not so much that it takes place, but that people fall for it by giving those who offend, outrage and upset them exactly what they were after. And nearly for free.