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Proud of Spain Today

by metavision Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 05:51:40 AM EST

(July 4) I am still watching the annual, two to three day, Debate of the Nation between President Rodriguez Zapatero and the leaders of every party in congress and I am awed.  It is not "an address to the nation that cannot talk back", but a fully representative debate that I wish were mandatory for most adults.  It is a grilling and I think the President likes that challenge.  This is in addition to every Wednesday of the legislature as the President appears in what´s called the (un)"control session".  

Not that it is a panacea, but I really would like to hear what countries have a comparable, government reporting system.  My mind starts to imagine 43rd  having to speak extemporaneously for five minutes...

Update [2007-7-6 9:26:4 by metavision]:The news is announcing that CIS polls say 43.9% think the President won the debate, versus 16.5% for the PPīs Rajoy. This statistic will be heard very widely and should sink in.

From the diaries - afew

*I have questioned whether I am deluded with this enthusiasm, but I have only had coffee so far, I get no material benefit from this and my gut confirms it is real.  I am proud and excited by the process and especially by the interventions of all non-PP (extreme right) leaders, who are the most interesting and informative because they reflect the priorities around the country that rarely make it to national news.   Involuntarily, I missed the PP intervention yesterday, but I am glad I did after reading the press accounts, because I may have been screaming out the window:  Rajoy, as usual,  just parroted the most abusive, demeaning and humiliating insults he could at the President, without a word of real content.  Oh, yeah, he said "ETA" a lot...

*I´m insulted that most representatives disappear after the PP intervention, as if  nothing mattered, but that roman circus.  From filling half of the camara, only a handful of PP members remain when Rajoy is "done" and at least a third of the PSOE.  It´s a great disrespect to the people and to the President, from those whom we pay around €6000 a month.  

*The President is there throughout, beginning with his prepared speech, then taking notes and responding accordingly to every single leader´s speech and their issues, at least twice.  The surprise in his speech was a 2,500€ check per Spanish child born from this date and it´s an electoralist tactic that the party must consider necessary for next year´s elections.  It´s a major mistake to favor population growth in a planet running out of resources, just to counter an aging population, instead of favoring industrial and economic changes to serve the current reality.

* The concentration, the intellectual effort, the personal interest and honesty are obvious in all the President´s interventions.  Acknowledging almost no mistakes, but admitting "it is not enough" in some cases, the President repeats the progress made in only three years.  He is fully prepared with factual data for every issue that is brought up, bringing up relevant improvements as counterpoint to leaders´ complaints.  His capacity, his depth and sincerity is evident and most truly respect that, even when they must continue to pressure him.

*His anger when replying to the right wing is called for, rationally controlled, natural  and very comforting to me because he remains a human, not a role!  Regardless of how much some leaders want to blame him for getting hooked on the PP´s divisive game, it is a perfectly normal reaction after their vicious attacks and public undermining every step of the way.  Sometimes I wonder if not even responding more often, may be a more effective tactic.

*Every theme that has been heard in the past few years is covered:  From commuter trains, to the Western Sahara, from foreign missions --differentiating UN from NATO ones!-- to housing, from social versus economic progress to power abuse by the church and insufficient action on climate change.  Terrorism and bananas, justice, immigration and temporary jobs...  You name it and it will be brought up in this nationally televised, annual event because it is good for the party leaders and for all.

*The President responds in kind:  He starts his responses to all other parties sincerely thanking them for their efforts, for their support and acknowledging their good faith.  He shows his personal "fullness" of intellect, emotion and beliefs, using sense, vision, real interest, perspective and even feelings and humor, without being comical.

*There are many, many things going wrong in Spain:  A lot of them, I think, are leftover habits of decades of repression, mixed with newfound capitalism-without-new- social-consciousness, but this government is not one of them!  It is not perfect, nor ideal, but DAMM GOOD!  It´s obvious to me the President is caught between his socialist beliefs and the economic powers (with church ties) that he needs to appease, if he wants to make changes.  He´s a lawyer who has learned enough economics to accept he cannot change everything.  The debate makes it crystal clear to anyone who cares to listen and think, that even an honest government is always balancing those forces.

*The debate also re-confirms beyond any reasonable doubt, the parties that act and disagree in good faith and... THE party that acts strictly from power-envy, and fails miserably:  the PP.  Their rage for the loss of power, makes them so sleazy and arrogant as to think they are impermeable.

*Rodriguez Zapatero didn´t quite admit mistakes, only shortfalls, but admitted he has not accomplished as much as he would like, without excuses, pretenses, or blaming unless he is dishonestly attacked.  He enumerates the important accomplishments and highlights those in progress.  He made standing up to strong criticism look like a piece of cake, when the opponents were respectful, honest and direct, as are all parties but one.  The leaders were adamant about the issues, not angry at him and it showed.  It was exhilarating to see "another way IS possible"!!!!

*The PSOE sounds confident it will be reelected and the last poll is positive, but I don´t dare assume the voting public is aware enough.   Considering what I read everyday, Spain has a real "statesman" and I hope he gets a second term because I don´t know a more complete leader.  Then, by 2012, I hope we will have created Left, global podiums for him to speak and teach, unsoiled by other ex-somethings.  I hope he will be sought internationally (if he learns English?) among leaders of stature that People can trust:  Jimmy Carter, Wangari Maathai........  

This is really interesting...and I didn't know this happened in Spain. You should be proud of it (and to have a leader who can mange that challenge!). Thanks for the article!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 09:52:45 AM EST
Aznar also managed the debate quite well.

It's actually quite remarkable in that, though his time is not limited and the time of the other speakers is, the Prime Minister has to face the leaders of all parliamentary factions for at least two rounds or replies and counter-replies. It would be interesting to know what other countries do.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 10:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not involved enough to watch during the Aznar years, so I would like to hear a comparison.  Did he really manage logic "back then"?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 01:37:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second and third year of the first mandate particularly.. Recall that Rato gave him a social security more strengthened than with Solbes (by applying the same policies of Solbes.actually a little bit better..  Rato on social security was very good),a  good deal for the finances with the Autonomies (Lander), a reasonable balanced budget, and with a slight increase in the investment in primary education.

We forget.. but Aznar was very much a center-right candidate at that time... because they needed to..and because he was not coopted by the neocons at that time.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 01:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
El Pais has this Special report videos are available (the presentation is centered on the face-off between Zapatero and Rajoy), but there is also this overview of the debates since 1983.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:42:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what the distinction here is. In the Hungarian Parliament, and IIRC the German and Austrian too, there are

  1. open sessions when any MP can ask a question to a minister or the PM, get a reply, then tell whether and why he doesn't/accept the reply, and then everyone votes on acceptance;

  2. during the debate of law proposals, every faction can ask questions and declare its judgement and make amends.

With those in place, I don't see a special need for a yearly session of questioning. So either I don't get it, or Spain lacks the open sessions and has more limited debates.

(I note though that here, inspired by the theatrical US practice, there is now an inofficial yearly state-of-the-country speech, to complicate things the main opposition party leader also helds one of his own outside Parliament...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 03:40:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain has weekly "Control Sessions", and debate of legislative proposals.

The debate we're talking about is a yearly "General Policy Debate", nicknamed "State of the Nation Debate". Apparently it was introduced by Felipe Gonzalez in 1983.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:36:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But is there anything (or anyone) that (who) can be debated in the "General Policy Debate" but not in the weekly "Control Sessions"?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:54:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In practice, no, but the Wednesday control sessions probably have an agenda that limits the issues to be debated and all the media picks up is the row started by the PP, mostly about ETA terrorism.

The rest of the year, the news tells us that "such and such a (social reform) law was approved by all parties except the PP".

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:14:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The control session has an agenda, but it is not unusual for different questions to be asked than the one that was "booked", especially if there has been some new breathless cospiranoid revelation about ZP surrendering to ETA in the far-right press.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:18:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The weekly control sessions generally focus on the issues of the day. The "General Policy Debate" allow the Government and all other parties to recap the previous year and make commitments for the following year.

For instance, Zapatero announced his intention to obtain a resolution of Parliament authorising a negotiation with ETA "if the right conditions were met" at his first Debate as PM in 2005.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:25:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, the "control sessions" are like the "question time" in the UK parliament. The format is a question from the floor and a focused reply from the appropriate minister. There is no room for free-form policy statements from either the government or the opposition. Similarly, debating proposed laws doesn't allow free-form policy statements.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks metavision for the report from Spain. Though it looks like things are not perfect, it is good to read that there are still rays of hope.
by Fran on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 09:59:56 AM EST
This is an interesting practice. Britain has the PM and ministers lined up facing their opposition "shadow" counterparts across the floor of the House, and sometimes the debate can be fierce. In France, the PM is only really called to account when making her/is opening policy speech (which François Fillon did this week), or if there's a censure motion (no-confidence). In neither case (UK or France) is there an obligation to respond to criticism and questions as in the procedure you describe, metavision. Thanks for telling us about it!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 12:45:21 PM EST
I think the UK equivalent is not so much the regular Question Time sessions in the House of Commons, as the debate on the Queen's Speech (at the start of each, usually annual, session of Parliament).

The Queen's Speech is written by her Ministers and apart for some minor discussion of plans for state visits it sets out the outline of what the government hopes to do during the session.

There is then a multi-day debate in which first the Prime Minister and the party leaders (and even a few backbenchers) discuss the overall situation and then the Minister and opposition party spokesmen (and some more backbenchers) debate particular policy areas. At the end the House passes a motion thanking the Queen for her most gracious speech. Rejection of the motion would amount to a vote of no confidence in the government.

The Opposition parties also have some days during the session when they can raise whatever issue they want and get someone from the government to respond.

by Gary J on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 09:54:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I imagine this debate is televised, so is it widely followed by the public?  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 02:59:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The initial Queen's speech is televised by terrestrial television, with a lot of emphasis on the traditional costumes and ceremonial (I blogged the last State Opening of Parliament here, so people who know more than I do may be able to locate it).

As for the politicians speeches they are lucky to get a five second sound bite on the news. You may get the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on BBC, but they usually cut away after a few minutes for round table discussions by politicians and journalists. This seems to be considered better television than the live event itself. You have to look at the Parliament Channel on cable or Freeview to see the whole debate.

by Gary J on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 07:34:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just click on your own user name to get a list of all your diaries.

Live blogging State Opening of UK Parliament by Gary J on November 15th, 2006

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 07:36:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the guidance, Migeru.
by Gary J on Wed Jul 11th, 2007 at 10:03:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank God we don't have that, the amount of humiliation would be indescribable. We are happily content on sound-bites, platitudes and bullshit.  Makes us strong and free-thats why you all envy us so much, our freedoms.

Must be nice to se a serious leader take serious questions about serious matters and have to defend his positions in front of the voters.  Probably makes for better government.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 12:55:51 PM EST
In the US -- I don't watch much political TV because I might have an apoplectic fit -- there is the yearly State of the Union address, which is more like "the Queen's Speech," a pre-written lecture read by the Presnit, with no debate, treated by the tame media almost as a kind of holy rite and by the dissident media (particularly with this Presnit) as a gold mine of political cartoon and op/ed material.  It is hard to imagine any of the current regime standing up well to an open debate;  Dubya would founder, babbling or freezing like the proverbial deer in the headlights, and the rest would probably feeling so outraged by; anyone daring to question them that they'd pitch a fit rather than engage with the opposition.  Consider the notorious 4-letter quality of Cheney's political repartee... it might be like a really, really bad Mamet movie :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 08:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
El Debate del Estado de la Nacion is really informative.. and quite substantive.. all topics are addressed... there is drama, theater and content..

I completely agree with metavision here.

I also agree that the social and economic jump has been huge these last three years. Maybe the necessary deflation of house prices is a little bit behind of schedule, and Zapatero can not be as federalists as he would like (and as the country would probably need, specially Andalucia, catalunya and Aragon.. more doubtful about Galicia Asutrias and Extremadura)... but other than that I can only see one area where the government is not doing what I expected... train and commodities... investment and the restructuration of goods transport away from trucks and towards train is absolutely lacking...(slow slow slow)

Still compared with the US .. this is heaven.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 01:52:47 PM EST
Metavision, thanks very much for this. It is really interesting to read about it and to see your views.

Do you think this engages people more in understanding politics or makes people better informed?

You make good points about how this style of communication shows up the sincerity and other virtues of those involved in the debate.

When I think of all the debate taking place in Wales at the moment regarding the leadership of the new Assembly Government, I'd really love to see a full public debate come out of it so that the voters can see for themselves what the policies are and what the leaders are really like and how the Government is intending to work together.

I like the comment you make about the good faith motives behind how most of the other parties act (showing up the PP for what they really are).  I don't feel as though there is any good faith in UK politics at the moment, it's just all point scoring and trying to bring the other sides down in a scrabble to get to the top of the polls.

Thought provoking diary, thanks.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 04:41:10 AM EST
I think the Debate is really engaging. Politics buffs can enjoy the debate on TV or radio (and now online) for two or three days, the newspapers have in-depth coverage, polls are made on who people think won or lost the face-off between the government and the opposition, who the best speaker was (often one of the nationalist parties gets this)...

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:22:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If anything can engage people in politics, this should be it, but we are flooded with media reports of the PP´s attacks and conspiracy theories all year round, so people are hooked on the soap opera, or are desensitized by now.  

Besides, I see the public is mostly distracted by "consuming" creature comforts, like most western societies.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:43:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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