This is the #SpanishRevolution
Undoubtedly inspired by the Arab uprisings, but also largely in response to the dire economic outlook, Spain is witness to a popular protest, involving tens of thousands of people in plazas throughout the country, demonstrating against austerity measures, and condemning both major political parties; the ruling PSOE (the Socialists) and the opposition party PP (the Conservatives).
The event taking place in the Puerta del Sol is being dubbed by some the new European Spring, including those on solidarity demonstrations outside Spanish embassies (like in London, where I visited yesterday).
The “Real Democracy Now” movement have scorned both major parties, currently fighting elections, but have also requested people remove their own political colours for the weekend, so as not to distract from the intended message, and get bogged down with in-fighting (indeed at the London gathering, all leafleting has been barred, as well as flag-flying, drink and drug-taking).
Though the protest in Spain has been illegal since Saturday, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he may not enforce the ban that could provoke clashes. He added: “I have a great respect for the people protesting, which they are doing in a peaceful manner, and I understand it is driven by economic crisis and young people’s hopes for employment”.
Despite having emerged out of a recession in 2010, Spain has clocked up little growth since. Consumer confidence has stagnated and export sector growth has been the only thing stopping the economy from dipping under again. The unemployment rate in Spain is 21.9% – the highest in the industrialised world – and for under-25s that rate in February was 44.6% (affecting many of the 800,000 young people who are eligible to vote for the first time).
News coverage has been lacking also. The Third Estate blog recently tweeted: “Lack of coverage of #spanishrevolution has been shocking. Yesterday on sky they covered it for 1 min, before another 10 on superinjunctions.”
Television pundits and column writers in Spain were only last week lamenting over how much apathy there has been, given the economic circumstances. But all that has changed. And no doubt both big parties will feel the hit when the election results are counted. Though press attention has been left wanting, it is very telling that most information on these events have come through social networks. Another case study to prove the worth of Twitter and Facebook, existing alongside active protest movements.