It seems like no time

Back in December, I wanted to see how the Spanish papers were marking the end of a turbulent year. On 29 December, one of the top stories in El País was the ongoing mystery surrounding the drowning of three members of the same family of British tourists in a resort pool in Mijas. Nacho Sánchez reported that five days after the tragic and almost inexplicable incident, many questions remained, with different accounts emerging from the police and surviving members of the family, and claims from the family’s lawyer that investigators may have mistranslated witness statements. Sánchez pointed to conflicting briefings from the authorities caught up in intense media scrutiny and speculation, but highlighted official assurances that the investigation had not yet been concluded.

The following day, journalist Miguel Ángel Bargueño was thinking about the things that we used to do back in 2009, not that long ago really, he points out, but which nobody does any more, whether because of technological advances, the radically altered political landscape, growing ecological awareness or just the whims of fashion. His list includes dating of the offline kind, the two party system, texting, photo albums, women’s football not being a big thing, and throwing plastic in the bin with your organic waste, among many others. He leaves it to readers to decide which of these developments are good and which are bad.

In an altogether more sombre article in La Vanguardia, Jaume Pi was taking a look at how politics had played out over the year in Spain (2019: Cuatro elecciones y un tribunal). He points to the continuing dominance of events in Catalonia, arguing that it was the political heat generated by the trial of the separatist leaders, which started in February, that doomed Prime Minister Sánchez’ efforts to gain support for his budget, triggering the first of two general elections. Although the socialist PSOE emerged as the largest single party in both of these, they failed to win an overall majority, leading to a prolonged period when Spain was without a fully functioning government. By the time the article was written, the PSOE had reached a provisional accord with left-wing contenders Unidas Podemos, but the successful formation of a government would depend on the abstention of the Catalan Republican left party, the ERC, in the relevant vote (in fact, as the article predicted, the ERC did abstain in the investiture debate on 7 January, and Pedro Sánchez has been able to form a government). Alongside the ongoing fall-out from court cases involving Carlos Puigdemont, Quim Torra and others, and the fluctuating fortunes of conservative rival parties the PP and Ciudadanos, the article points to the growing strength of the new far-right group Vox, which started the year by winning seats in the previous socialist stronghold of Andalusia, and ended it with spectacular gains at national level, where it now holds 52 seats in the lower house of the Spanish Parliament. Stormy times ahead.

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