We live in dangerous times. But just when the forces of democracy and sanity should be rallying together, downplaying their differences in the interests of a united front against the enemies of civilisation, time and again we find that the opposite is happening.
You know the Spanish story (see Friday’s preview here). The parties that jointly won April’s election spent months bickering and failing to agree on a coalition government. Instead they were willing to risk another election, knowing that it was unlikely to solve anything and would probably make matters worse. It has.
With results from yesterday’s election now virtually complete, the six political blocs have emerged as follows:
Centre-left (Socialists) 28.3% (down 0.6%) 120 seats (down three)
Far left (Podemos & others) 16.2% (up 0.1%) 38 seats (down four)
Centre-right (People’s Party) 21.4% (up 4.2%) 89 seats (up 21)
Far right (Vox) 15.2% (up 4.9%) 52 seats (up 28)
Centre (Citizens) 6.9% (down 9.1%) 10 seats (down 47)
Regionalists (assorted) 11.0% (up 0.9%) 41 seats (up five)
In other words, little change on the left, but a big movement from centre to right, greatly exaggerated by the Spanish electoral system. The far-right Vox, which appeared from almost nowhere in April, won half as many votes again and more than doubled in seats. Citzens was almost annihilated, losing more than half its votes and nearly five-sixths of its seats.
The multitude of regionalist parties (now ten of them, up three from last time) split roughly evenly between left and right, so the left still has a narrow majority in both votes and seats. But that is mostly academic: firstly because the regionalists, whatever their political color, will not co-operate with the centralist right, and secondly because if the Socialists try to draw them into a coalition, regional differences will probably matter more than the left/right split.
The predicted backlash against the national parties in Catalonia barely happened. Pro-independence parties there are still short of a majority, with 42.9% of the vote (up 3.3%) and 23 of the 48 seats (gaining one, at the expense of the right).
After April, there were multiple routes to a majority. Realistically there are now only two: either a grand coalition between centre-left and centre-right, or a broad left coalition embracing the Socialists, Podemos and most of the regionalists.
Previously the latter could have got to a majority without the Catalans. That is no longer possible – unless Citizens come on board instead, and the prospect of getting Citizens and Podemos to work together is as remote as ever. Moreover, the Citizens’ contingent is now so small that it won’t make a great deal of difference anyway.
To make matters worse the Socialists have also lost their majority in the Senate, losing 29 seats to finish with 92 of the 208, just six ahead of the centre-right. Regionalists will have most of the rest; Vox won two seats, and Citizens lost all of its four.
There’s nothing unique about Spain. Political incompetence and pig-headedness happens everywhere, and there’s an element of satisfaction in seeing it appropriately punished. But it’s not something that democracies can afford just now.
If civilisation falls, it will not be because its enemies are strong or smart or popular. Don’t give them that much credit. The danger to civilisation arises from its defenders not doing their job.