An Ideological Face-Off in Madrid, Congress Passes Euthanasia Law And the Latest on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dear Expat,

The week started with the news that Pablo Iglesias of Podemos was quitting his position as Second Deputy Prime Minister to run for the Madrid regional premiership to “prevent the far-right to take control of the institutions.” The incumbent Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the PP reacted to the announcement by changing her campaign slogan from “Socialism or Liberty” to “Communism or Liberty”, adding fuel to an overly ideologically driven campaign. On Thursday, the Congress of Deputies passed the Euthanasia Law, marking a historical moment in Spain’s democracy. Spain is the seventh country in the world to regulate assisted dying. And finally, the good news today is that vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine will restart as of Wednesday next week.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

A Political Battlefield

Spaniards were still reeling from a convulsive week, during which a no-confident motion against the right-wing People’s Party (PP) in Murcia prompted early polls in Madrid, when Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Unidas Podemos party, announced he was stepping down as Second Deputy Prime Minister of the PSOE-led coalition government to run for the premiership of Madrid in the upcoming regional elections, to be held on May 4.

The decision came a day after the Madrid High Court had ruled in favour of the snap election called by the now incumbent regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso from the PP, in what many believe was a bid to avoid being taking down by the opposition. The surprise move came just hours after a motion of no confidence was tabled by the socialist PSOE and the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) against the PP-led government in Murcia over allegations of corruption linked to the awarding of local public contracts. On the same morning, the PSOE followed suit in the northern region of Castilla and León, where the PP is also in power.

The new vote had met with the opposition of the Madrid assembly. The leftist Más Madrid and the PSOE parties had filed two motions of no-confidence to avoid the new polls within an hour after Díaz Ayuso had signed the decree. There was a technicality missing, they said —it had to be registered and published on the Regional Gazette, which happens a day or two after the decree is signed.

Pablo Iglesias made the bold step to prevent the far-right Vox party from “taking control of the institutions“ in Madrid. In a video published on Monday by the newspaper La Vanguardia, Iglesias said: “Madrid is facing a huge risk, which is a risk for Madrid but also for all of Spain: that there could be an ultra-right government with Ayuso and Vox.”

In Spain’s modern democracy, the conservative side of the political spectrum has traditionally been a one-party affair, with the PP as the only contender. By contrast, the left has always been fractured into smaller parties.

Bipartidism defined Spain’s democracy for decades, with PSOE and PP alternating in power, but very often in need of kingmakers, which they found in nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country.

 

The willingness of politicians at this level to turn an electoral run in the context of a pandemic into a simplistic and fallacious worldview should be a reason for concern

 

In the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, two new, smaller parties exploded onto the Spanish political scene, marking the end of bipartidism in Spain after more than 30 years: the leftist Podemos, born in 2014 from the anti-austerity indignados protest movement, and the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), established in Barcelona in 2006 to oppose Catalan nationalism. Over the years, Ciudadanos grew to become a nationwide party, becoming a threat both to the PSOE and the PP.

But there was a third, disruptive force in the making. Vox was founded in 2013 by members of the PP out of concern the traditional conservative party was veering too much to the centre and not doing enough to confront nationalistic forces in Catalonia. Led by Santiago Abascal, the far-right party has stricken a chord among people supporting traditional values and the territorial integrity of Spain. Vox supports the rolling back of the Spanish regional autonomies, it takes a hard-line stance on migration and wants to abolish laws on Gender Violence.

In 2018, the party won 11% of the votes in the Andalusia regional polls, securing 22 of the 109 seats of the regional parliament and becoming key in the formation of the right-wing government of the PP and Ciudadanos. In the national election of 2019, it gained more power in the national parliament, going from 24 to 52 seats. In Catalunya’s recent election, it surpassed the PP, which, for the first time in its history, failed to pass the 5% threshold for representation.

And now, following the breakup of the coalition formed by the PP and Ciudadanos in Madrid, Vox is poised to enter the government of the central region should the PP win the election without securing an absolute majority. This is why Pablo Iglesias centred his speech on the risk posed by the far right. “We must prevent these crooks, these criminals who celebrate the dictatorship, who glorify state terrorism, promote violence against migrants, homosexuals and feminists, who, when a group of military officers talk about shooting 26 million ‘reds’, say that these people are their people… We must prevent them from holding more power in Madrid,” he said in the video.

The leader of Podemos nominated the current Labour Ministry and Social Security Ministry, Yolanda Díaz, from UP to replace him. Díaz is a Galician lawyer who enjoys high approving rates for her management of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. She was able to strike deals with trade unions and employers to extend job-retention ERTE schemes. “She is the best Labour minister in history,” said the Podemos leader. And then added: “I think I’m saying something that millions of left-wing people in Spain feel if I say that Yolanda Díaz could be the next Spanish prime minister.” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez agreed to appoint Díaz to that position.

Iglesias also proposed a unitary candidacy with the leftist Más Madrid, formed by his former Podemos colleague Íñigo Errejón. But Mónica García, the Madrid candidate for Más Madrid, declined the offer. An anaesthetist by trade and a member of Marea Blanca, a movement born to fight the privatization of public health in Madrid, she emphasized her wish to capitalize on her experience at opposing right-wing policies: “Women are tired of doing the dirty work and then be placed aside come historical moments,” she said with a touch of irony. “We have amply proved we can counter the extreme right without supervision.”

Isabel Díaz Ayuso response to the Iglesias’ announcement was laconic and misleadingly Manichean: “Communism or Freedom,” now the PP’s campaign slogan. The willingness of politicians at this level to turn an electoral run in the context of a pandemic into a simplistic and fallacious worldview should be a reason for concern.

The left reacted to Díaz Ayuso with a similarly dichotomic slogan: “Democracy or Fascism.” However, it seems like Díaz Ayuso is more determined to let herself be constrained and confused by the two opposing concepts. “When they call you a fascist, you know you’re doing well, you are on the right side of history,” she said during a television interview on Monday. In a democracy, a claim like this is beyond incomprehensible, and the fact that it was uttered by the incumbent premier of the Madrid regional government is all the more unforgivable. It adds fuel to those who want to further polarise the political debate, leaving behind nuances that are more truthful to reality and which much needed in the context of a pandemic and economic crisis.

Were she to win the election, Díaz Ayuso knows she will probably have to govern with the far-right party Vox, so her comments might be carefully calculated to attract more votes from the extreme right.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
Sign up to Dearexpat,

A Historical Moment: Congress Passes Euthanasia Law

On Thursday, the Congress of Deputies, Spain lower house of parliament, lived a historical session: 202 lawmakers voted in favour of the Euthanasia Law, 141 voted against it, and two abstained. Spain joined Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, becoming the fourth country in Europe, and the seventh in the world after Canada and Colombia to legalise euthanasia and grant citizens the individual right to end their suffering. Before the approval of the law, helping somebody to end their lives was punished with up to 10 years in jail.

The new law allows two ways of ending one’s life, provided they are adults who “suffer a serious or incurable disease or a serious or chronic condition” that causes “unbearable suffering». Euthanasia will require a doctor to administer a lethal injection, for example, while assisted suicide will be undertaken by the person themselves with the help of a doctor. The patient must be, “fully aware and conscious” when they make a request, which has to be submitted twice over the space of two weeks, that must state their will to end their lives. Patients must be provided with all the medical information regarding their condition, as well as with all the possible alternatives at their disposal. A doctor can reject the request if they deem the criteria are not met. The second request must be approved by a regional commission, which will appoint two specialists. Any medic can exercise their right to conscientious objection to avoid taking part in the procedure.

«Today, we have become a country that is more humane, fairer and freer,» Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted after the vote. «The euthanasia law, widely demanded by society, has finally become a reality.»

 

 

Those groups called for a palliative care law and claimed that the new legislation will encourage patients to end their lives, or that patients are desperate and not in their right mind when they send the request, invalidating their capacity to make decisions. But in the absence of empirical data confirming these allegations, these claims are no more than opinions and speculation.

But the law was fiercely opposed by the conservative ranks and religious groups. The Episcopal Conference said euthanasia is “a form of murder”. The right-wing PP, the Navarrese People’s Union (UPN) and far-right Vox parties voted against, but the far-right Vox party went a step further by vowing to appeal the law in the Constitutional Court. «Life cannot be left in the hands of the authorities,» said Vox MP Lourdes Monasterio. «We will not rest until making sure that, at the end of life, a person can die with dignity, without pain and without being killed,” she told the chamber.

Those groups called for a palliative care law that includes proposals that go from palliative care in health degrees to spiritual assistance and support for caregivers and relatives.

The right has a history of opposing historical laws that aim to broaden individual rights, such as laws legalizing abortion or same-sex marriage, which Spanish society fully embraced since the outset. None of these laws once passed sparked unrest or sustained opposition by a majority of Spaniards. Quite the contrary, a high percentage of people supported them and went about their business, happy that their fellow citizens were finally enjoying more individual freedom. Regarding euthanasia, the public CIS research institute revealed that 82% of Spaniards support the law.

The Latest About the Coronavirus in Spain

Spain hopes to have vaccinated 70% of the population by the end of summer, but with the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week after several European countries, including Spain, halted vaccination with that jab, our hopes went down the drain.

Now Spain will restart using the vaccine starting on Wednesday next week and will weigh on whether people over 55 years of age will be eligible for the vaccine, which until now had been excluded due to a lack of clinical trials with older age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was thought to be responsible of a number of cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or blood clotting in the brain. A 43-year-old teacher from Marbella died of brain hemorrhaging after being administered the vaccine. And although it has not been confirmed as yet that there is no association between the vaccine and blood clotting, the EMA has given the green light to restarting using the vaccine, alleging that the benefits outstrip the risks. The problem is, people might now reject the jab out of fear, slowing the already sluggish vaccination drive.

The Spanish Health Ministry released updated data yesterday. So far, a total of 7,684,265 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed to the country’s regions, 78% of which have been injected. A total of 1,886,813, about 4% of the population, have received the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

The number of new infections as from stands at 6,216, while the number of Covid-19 deaths has increased by 117 people, adding to a total of 72,910 deaths since the pandemic began. The number of deceased people over the last seven days has gone down from to 495 to 410 people. Meanwhole, the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants increased slightly for the second day in a row, from 127.91 to 128.17.

Dear Expat,

The week started with the news that Pablo Iglesias of Podemos was quitting his position as Second Deputy Prime Minister to run for the Madrid regional premiership to “prevent the far-right to take control of the institutions.” The incumbent Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the PP reacted to the announcement by changing the slogan of her campaign from “Socialism or Freedom” to “Communism or Freedom”, adding fuel to an overly ideologically driven campaign. On Thursday, the Congress of Deputies passed the Euthanasia Law, marking a historical moment in Spain’s democracy. Spain is the seventh country in the world to regulate assisted dying. And finally, the good news today is that vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine will restart as of Wednesday next week.

A Political Battlefield

Spaniards were still reeling from a convulsive week, during which a no-confident motion against the right-wing People’s Party (PP) in Murcia prompted early polls in Madrid, when Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Unidas Podemos party, announced he was stepping down as Second Deputy Prime Minister of the PSOE-led coalition government to run for the premiership of Madrid in the upcoming regional elections, to be held on May 4.

The decision came a day after the Madrid High Court had ruled in favour of the snap election called by the now incumbent regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso from the PP, in what many believe was a bid to avoid being taking down by the opposition. The surprise move came just hours after a motion of no confidence was tabled by the socialist PSOE and the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) against the PP-led government in Murcia over allegations of corruption linked to the awarding of local public contracts. On the same morning, the PSOE followed suit in the northern region of Castilla and León, where the PP is also in power.

The new vote had met with the opposition of the Madrid assembly. The leftist Más Madrid and the PSOE parties had filed two motions of no-confidence to avoid the new polls within an hour after Díaz Ayuso had signed the decree. There was a technicality missing, they said —it had to be registered and published on the Regional Gazette, which happens a day or two after the decree is signed.

Pablo Iglesias made the bold step to prevent the far-right Vox party from “taking control of the institutions“ in Madrid. In a video published on Monday by the newspaper La Vanguardia, Iglesias said: “Madrid is facing a huge risk, which is a risk for Madrid but also for all of Spain: that there could be an ultra-right government with Ayuso and Vox.“

In Spain’s modern democracy, the conservative side of the political spectrum has traditionally been a one-party affair, with the PP as the only contender. By contrast, the left has always been fractured into smaller parties.

Bipartidism defined Spain’s democracy for decades, with PSOE and PP alternating in power, but very often in need of kingmakers, which they found in nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country.

 

The willingness of politicians at this level to turn an electoral run in the context of a pandemic into a simplistic and fallacious worldview should be a reason for concern

 

In the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, two new, smaller parties exploded onto the Spanish political scene, marking the end of bipartidism in Spain after more than 30 years: the leftist Podemos, born in 2014 from the anti-austerity indignados protest movement, and the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), established in Barcelona in 2006 to oppose Catalan nationalism. Over the years, Ciudadanos grew to become a nationwide party, becoming a threat both to the PSOE and the PP.

But there was a third, disruptive force in the making. Vox was founded in 2013 by members of the PP out of concern the traditional conservative party was veering too much to the centre and not doing enough to confront nationalistic forces in Catalonia. Led by Santiago Abascal, the far-right party has stricken a chord among people supporting traditional values and the territorial integrity of Spain. Vox supports the rolling back of the Spanish regional autonomies, it takes a hard-line stance on migration and wants to abolish laws on Gender Violence.

In 2018, the party won 11% of the votes in the Andalusia regional polls, securing 22 of the 109 seats of the regional parliament and becoming key in the formation of the right-wing government of the PP and Ciudadanos. In the national election of 2019, it gained more power in the national parliament, going from 24 to 52 seats. In Catalunya’s recent election, it surpassed the PP, which, for the first time in its history, failed to pass the 5% threshold for representation.

And now, following the breakup of the coalition formed by the PP and Ciudadanos in Madrid, Vox is poised to enter the government of the central region should the PP win the election without securing an absolute majority. This is why Pablo Iglesias centred his speech on the risk posed by the far right. “We must prevent these crooks, these criminals who celebrate the dictatorship, who glorify state terrorism, promote violence against migrants, homosexuals and feminists, who, when a group of military officers talk about shooting 26 million ‘reds’, say that these people are their people… We must prevent them from holding more power in Madrid,” he said in the video.

The leader of Podemos nominated the current Labour Ministry and Social Security Ministry, Yolanda Díaz, from UP to replace him. Díaz is a Galician lawyer who enjoys high approving rates for her management of the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. She was able to strike deals with trade unions and employers to extend job-retention ERTE schemes. “She is the best Labour minister in history,” said the Podemos leader. And then added: “I think I’m saying something that millions of left-wing people in Spain feel if I say that Yolanda Díaz could be the next Spanish prime minister.” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez agreed to appoint Díaz to that position.

Iglesias also proposed a unitary candidacy with the leftist Más Madrid, formed by his former Podemos colleague Íñigo Errejón. But Mónica García, the Madrid candidate for Más Madrid, declined the offer. An anaesthetist by trade and a member of Marea Blanca, a movement born to fight the privatization of public health in Madrid, she emphasized her wish to capitalize on her experience at opposing right-wing policies: “Women are tired to doing the dirty work and then be placed aside come historical moments,“ she said with a touch of irony. “We have amply proved we can counter the extreme right without supervision.”

Isabel Díaz Ayuso response to the Iglesias’ announcement was laconic and misleadingly Manichean: “Communism or Liberty,” now the PP’s campaign slogan. The willingness of politicians at this level to turn an electoral run in the context of a pandemic into a simplistic and fallacious worldview should be a reason for concern.

The left reacted to Díaz Ayuso with a similarly dichotomic slogan: “Democracy or Fascism.” However, it seems like Díaz Ayuso is more determined to let herself be constrained and confused by the two opposing concepts. “When they call you a fascist, you know you’re doing well, you are on the right side of history,” she said during a television interview on Monday. In a democracy, a claim like this is beyond incomprehensible, and the fact that it was uttered by the incumbent premier of the Madrid regional government is all the more unforgivable. It adds fuel to those who want to further polarise the political debate, leaving behind nuances that are more truthful to reality and which much needed in the context of a pandemic and economic crisis.

Were she to win the election, Díaz Ayuso knows she will probably have to govern with the far-right party Vox, so her comments might be carefully calculated to attract more votes from the extreme right.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

A Historical Moment: Congress Passes Euthanasia Law

On Thursday, the Congress of Deputies, Spain lower house of parliament, lived a historical session: 202 lawmakers voted in favour of the Euthanasia Law, 141 voted against it, and two abstained. Spain joined Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, becoming the fourth country in Europe, and the seventh in the world after Canada and Colombia to legalise euthanasia and grant citizens the individual right to end their suffering. Before the approval of the law, helping somebody to end their lives was punished with up to 10 years in jail.

The new law allows two ways of ending one’s life, provided they are adults who “suffer a serious or incurable disease or a serious or chronic condition” that causes “unbearable suffering». Euthanasia will require a doctor to administer a lethal injection, for example, while assisted suicide will be undertaken by the person themselves with the help of a doctor. The patient must be, “fully aware and conscious” when they make a request, which has to be submitted twice over the space of two weeks, that must state their will to end their lives. Patients must be provided with all the medical information regarding their condition, as well as with all the possible alternatives at their disposal. A doctor can reject the request if they deem the criteria are not met. The second request must be approved by a regional commission, which will appoint two specialists. Any medic can exercise their right to conscientious objection to avoid taking part in the procedure.

«Today, we have become a country that is more humane, fairer and freer,» Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted after the vote. «The euthanasia law, widely demanded by society, has finally become a reality.»

 

 

«Today is an important day: we are heading towards the recognition of human rights. We are heading towards a more humane and fair society,» Health Minister Carolina Darias said in her address to lawmakers.

But the law was fiercely opposed by the conservative ranks and religious groups. The Episcopal Conference said euthanasia is “a form of murder”. The right-wing PP, the Navarrese People’s Union (UPN) and the far-right Vox parties voted against, but the far-right party went a step further by vowing to appeal the law in the Constitutional Court. «Life cannot be left in the hands of the authorities,» said Vox MP Lourdes Monasterio. «We will not rest until making sure that, at the end of life, a person can die with dignity, without pain and without being killed,” she told the chamber.

Those groups called for a palliative care law and claimed that the new legislation will encourage patients to end their lives, or that patients are desperate and not in their right mind when they send the request, invalidating their capacity to make decisions. But in the absence of empirical data confirming these allegations, these claims are no more than opinions and speculation.

The right has a history of opposing historical laws that aim to broaden individual rights, such as laws legalizing abortion or same-sex marriage, which Spanish society fully embraced since the outset. None of these laws once passed sparked unrest or sustained opposition by a majority of Spaniards. Quite the contrary, a high percentage of people supported them and went about their business, happy that their fellow citizens were finally enjoying more individual freedom. Regarding euthanasia, the public CIS research institute revealed that 82% of Spaniards support the law.

The Latest About the Coronavirus in Spain

Spain hopes to have vaccinated 70% of the population by the end of summer, but with the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week after several European countries, including Spain, halted vaccination with that jab, our hopes went down the drain.

Now Spain will restart using the vaccine starting on Wednesday next week and will weigh on whether people over 55 years of age will be eligible for the vaccine, which until now had been excluded due to a lack of clinical trials with older age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was thought to be responsible of a number of cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or blood clotting in the brain. A 43-year-old teacher from Marbella died of brain hemorrhaging after being administered the vaccine. And although it has not been confirmed as yet that there is no association between the vaccine and blood clotting, the EMA has given the green light to restarting using the vaccine, alleging that the benefits outstrip the risks. The problem is, people might now reject the jab out of fear, slowing the already sluggish vaccination drive.

The Spanish Health Ministry released updated data yesterday. So far, a total of 7,684,265 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed to the country’s regions, 78% of which have been injected. A total of 1,886,813, about 4% of the population, have received the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

The number of new infections as from stands at 6,216, while the number of Covid-19 deaths has increased by 117 people, adding to a total of 72,910 deaths since the pandemic began. The number of deceased people over the last seven days has gone down from to 495 to 410 people. Meanwhole, the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants increased slightly for the second day in a row, from 127.91 to 128.17.