THE OBSERVER

5 reasons not to vote, plus one and a half to do so

1. In a parliamentary system where the prime minister is voted in by a majority of representatives, politicians have no choice but to compromise. At the very least, they are expected to conduct public affairs with the same degree of responsibility with which the general public go about their jobs and private business. Most citizens who are called upon to cast their ballot cannot afford to behave like a whimsical teenager, as so many political leaders shamelessly do. Behaving like grown-ups, responsibly and showing respect for the intelligence of voters, should be the first step towards undoing the deadlock of a political reality that is growing increasingly toxic. Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez should have never called this election, the same way he shouldn’t have run such an opportunistic campaign, carried away by spin doctors who are unable to see beyond short-term gains and have given us no indication of the sort of world they would like to build, preoccupied as they are with the latest polls. Overcome by hubris and determined not to compromise and respond to the harsh prison sentences [in the case of the Catalan leaders] sensibly, Sánchez has done a triple somersault and tonight we shall find out whether he will land on his feet or in ER. So far he has got himself in a muddle during the campaign, revealing his scorn for the Public Prosecutor’s autonomy and snubbing Unidas Podemos while cosied up to the PP, only to shun them later. The torrent of mixed messages has merely increased the noise and confusion for Sánchez’s own voters and those who trusted him on the promise of a left-leaning government.

2. In Spanish politics, lying and using Catalonia does not come at a price and it often brings a reward, even if it means dropping the debate down to the lowest form of politics. Understandably, many Catalan citizens might be tempted not to cast a ballot today in a game that imposes a reality on them which they reject or are unwilling to accept and where they are reserved a subservient role. This election will be a litmus test for Catalonia’s traditional dual vote. Will today’s ballot confirm the feeling that a good deal of Catalan voters no longer see the Spanish chessboard as a shared playing field?

3. Spain’s traditional political parties are reluctant to wave goodbye to bipartisanship and welcome in a new political space that resembles Spain’s pluri-national reality more closely. As a matter of fact, they even oppose the actual mentions in the Constitution and regional Statutes that refer to Spain as a pluri-national country. The very same executioners of the Spanish Constitution claim to defend it every day with the kind of outmoded bullfighter’s rhetoric that reeks of mothball.

4. Just like Mitterrand paved the way for France’s National Front to enter the National Assembly in a move to split the conservative vote, only to see the French far right compete in the second round of the presidential elections today, Spain is witnessing its own brand of far right ambling in the streets and tv studios and taking centre stage. Vox, whose roots run deep into the Franco era, have enjoyed a comfortable campaign unopposed by a democratic combat (republican, French-style) in the public arena, and by news outlets —ever so pro-monarchy, but scared of pointing out their lies and demagoguery. Vox’s narrative has permeated the general debate, shifting the rest of the political spectrum.

5. The apathy experienced by a segment of the electorate is tempting in the face of such negative political discourse, when what prevails is conspiracy paranoia and calling out traitors, gripped by emotion and forgetting the rationality that managing public affairs requires. It is disappointing to see how party policies ignore the day-to-day running of affairs amid a general feeling that the political leadership has been overwhelmed. Furthermore, the new leadership in Catalonia’s pro-independence camp will need time to take hold and show its true value, after their predecessors were sent to prison or exile.

One (and a half) reasons to go out and vote

Democracy is fragile and the right to vote should not be taken for granted. Many have sacrificed their lives or spent time in a prison cell to build a system that is subject to improvement and may be reformed, but is a democracy nonetheless. In this system the penalty for abusing power, the absence of justice and the inability to engage in a dialogue is effectively meted out at the polls, by favouring wide, effective majorities in parliament. We are all individually responsible for the world that we are building. The ephemeral glory of hoping for the worst and choosing the path of conflict fades away with the cry that accompanies it. A ballot that is not cast does not offer a shortcut to one’s dreams, but a waste of the capital accumulated thanks to the sacrifice of so many. If you don’t like the current state of affairs, you should muck in. Badmouthing politics merely feeds fascism, just like the quality of a democracy is diminished by a lack of criticism.

Plus half a reason: it is not true that everybody is the winner on election night. Elections are won by some, lost by others. Oftentimes it is more rewarding to see who is the loser than who is the winner and it is only human to feel an intimate satisfaction when you see someone up close who has just ruined their career, drunk with rage.

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