A side-dish to a five-course meal of challenges

Jonathan Sacramento - Tuesday 12th November

It’s 'as you were' in Spain. Except it isn’t. The fragmentation of the political spectrum has split the electorate beyond the ability to form a government and this latest round of votes has done nothing to clear up the impasse.

For decades Spain’s elections were a two-horse race. The PP and PSOE represent the establishment, the traditional power blocks which bred disenchantment and political disengagement, exacerbated by corruption scandals, the country’s increasing migrant crisis and, more recently, the Catalonian separatist unrest.

It’s a breeding ground for populism if ever there was one, in a country where no-one thought it would ever happen.

Podemos and Ciudadanos were the new kids on the block following the 15-M anti-austerity movement, but although their grass-roots activism gained some early momentum, their main achievement has been to break up the PP and PSOE blocks to a point where they can no longer achieve a majority in the Spanish Parliament.

The VOX ascendency is the latest development, and the one which Gibraltar will most keep an eye on. This is the group which planted a giant Spanish flag on the western Rock-face in 2016, and made allegations against Gibraltar’s law enforcement agencies which I shall not repeat here. The Party has also, more than once, vowed to close the border if elected.

The Chief Minister is right to appeal for calm at this stage. VOX won’t be anyone’s kingmakers in this hung parliament. Even if the PP were persuaded to enter coalition discussions, their combined strength is no-where near the 176-seat majority needed to form government.

The wider concern for those living and working on the Rock is that the VOX narrative is absorbed by other parties, such as the PP. It’s a side-dish to a five-course meal of challenges, the main course of which will be the departure from the European Union.

In his victory speech following the General Election result of the 18th October, Fabian Picardo said the age of entitlement was over, and now comes a new age of responsibility, with the biggest challenge Gibraltar has ever faced. These were stark words, which will continue to resonate as the political picture in the UK becomes clearer on 12th December.

Things will never be the same after Brexit. We know that. But it’s hard for anyone to adjust to a new reality when the pieces of the puzzle aren’t in place. It’s difficult to accept and move on while the future remains nebulous, and each step on the journey brings with it more questions than answers.

Gibraltar will need to be patient, and prepare for every possibility. If the global political events of the last four years have shown us anything, it’s that you can’t rule anything out.