A shortened version of this article was published in SUR in English
The political earthquake in Spain may have been triggered by the economic crisis and widespread corruption scandals. But the underlying forces moving the tectonic plates are generational.
Digital technology is a clear cause and effect. The old analogue parties lose their edge in the age of social media. Podemos outstrips the main two parties on Twitter and Facebook and is regarded as the world’s first party to use Reddit, the social news website. Members use social media to debate and vote on policy online. In comparison, according to the CIS less than half of the voters of the main two parties, PSOE and PP, used the internet in the last three months. The governing party would receive only 5% of votes from 18-24 year olds.
The rise of another new party, Ciudadanos, which is now the fourth biggest in Spain, shows the new priority of younger Spaniards. Its typical voter is urban, middle-class, educated and has not yet reached old age. It is pro-market but, unlike the traditional Spanish right, secular, against nationalism and socially liberal (for example pro-gay marriage). Like Podemos, Ciudadanos differentiate themselves from what they say is the self-serving, oligarchic political caste.
Many of those now turning to Podemos and Ciudadnos were born after Franco died in 1975. After his death Spain collectively decided to forget, if not forgive, the horrors of its Civil War and the regime that followed in order to peacefully become a liberal democracy, in a process known as la transición. Senior franquistas, like Manuel Fraga, Minister for Tourism and Information in the sixties, were not prosecuted and even remained at the forefront of politics. Fraga founded the PP, becoming its honorary president, and was also president of the Galician assembly for 15 years, until 2005.
The crisis has awakened a rebellious mood in the post-Franco generation, which threatens the two party system. They are not afraid to rock the boat, unlike those during la transición, terrified by memories of the civil war and to some extent made apolitical by Franco’s education system and censorship. Since before the crisis CIS stats show the Spanish speak about politics more often with their friends and with their family, sign petitions more and buy products for political reasons more frequently. Television channels are filled with tertulianas, political chat shows, which helped Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias reach the public.
As they look to redesign their country, Spaniards today rail against the political system of the last 40 years. A new transition awaits.