Are 300 Parties Too Many Parties?

Are 300 Parties Too Many Parties?

A mental arrogance seems to afflict us when we consider Spain. When Americans read of right-wing plots in Spain against the new democracy every several weeks or so, if they are wise they know the old Spanish right must somehow be harnessed. But if they are “sophisticated” they cluck their tongues about the democracy itself and lecture that it is time for ideological politics to cease in Spain, time for the political consensus of a Common Front (different from the right-leaning “national fronts” and left-leaning “popular fronts” of the past) that serves the nation instead of factions.

I would like to lodge a small protest. It seems to me that the Spaniards, who have faced enough political difficulties in the past, are being advised to do not merely what is difficult, but impossible. They are being advised to practice a “democratic” politics of a sort that can’t exist in a parliamentary democracy, and to which the closest approximation is what Franco always said he was doing. The Spanish democracy does not seem, so far, to be listening—and a good thing it is.

To the Anglo-American sensibility, the conglomerate Democratic and Republican, Labor and Conservative parties seem the height of political reason. In Spain, however, there are some 300 parties—a rough count and depending on when you’re counting. Some are regional parties affiliated with national parties; some are independent. There is no one socialist party in Spain but several. There is no center party but a massive moderate front, the Union de Centro Democratic°, with constant threats of secession by member parties. The Coalicion Democratica (formerly the Alianza Popular) is a parliamentary alliance of several parties. I’m setting aside the inevitable loonies of antiparliamentary left and right, who reject the Cortes—the Spanish parliament—anyway.


Lima