In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Spain is the food. Although I love the food back at home, I must say that Spanish food is rich and delicious, whether it is made in the house or in a restaurant. The tapas were one of the things I missed the most when I returned to England after my year abroad. For those who are not too familiar with tapas, you are really missing out. In most bars around Spain, Tapas are a feature which allows people to drink and have a nibble at the same time. Tapas are small bites that you find in bars. For example, it could be a croquet de jamon (ham croquette), or something more distinct like crab sticks and a sauce on a piece of bread. The word tapa means lid, and the food was originally given to the customers to cover the beers so that flies couldn’t enter. In the past, tapas were normally free to anyone who bought a drink, although this custom has mostly disappeared, except for in Andalusia, where they continue to offer tapas to customers who have bought a drink. The tapas culture is very popular in Spain, and el Tubo, the area in Zaragoza which has many tapas bars, is packed every weekend without fail. Many people complement the tapas with rations of patatas bravas, calamares or other dishes. It is a very good way to spend an evening, hopping around tapas bars and having a drink with friends.
This week, in Zaragoza is the 17th Tapas contest, where tapas bars throughout Zaragoza fight for the acclaimed title of the best Tapa in Zaragoza. Each bar that participates has made two specialities for the contest. With tickets, customers can try the tapas and drink a glass of wine or have a beer. The winning tapa is the one with the most votes from the public, who will judge the tapas on the taste and presentation. If I am being honest, I could not pick a winner from the tapas that I have tried this week, as they have all been exceptional. They have ranged from traditional Spanish ones such as chorizo croquets, to a small chicken curry pie.
Here you have some of the examples of the tapas on offer;
A new era in Spain
Aside from the tapas contest, Spaniards have been voting on more important issues this week. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the General elections took place on 20th November. There were to be no surprises, and the Popular Party had great success, gaining their greatest ever result with an absolute majority, winning 186 seats out of 350 – the biggest victory since 1982. Mariano Rajoy has spent the last year and a half in silence, waiting for the elections to defeat the increasing unpopular PSOE government after two failed attempts in 2004 and 2008. Whilst the PP may have the absolute majority, this election will be marked by the implosion of the socialist vote rather than a massive increase of support for the PP. Whilst the PP only achieved 552, 683 more votes than in the 2008 elections, which they lost, they have achieved 32 more seats. The fact is that the Spanish public have chosen the PP due to the ineptness of the socialist government to deal with the crisis. This can be seen by the fall in the socialist vote; the PSOE lost 4,315,455 votes in this election. However the socialist voters did not move over to the PP, with only 10% of former PSOE voters deflecting to the PP. A big winner in the election was the IU, who have ran a campaign, discrediting both the PSOE and the PP, and promoting themselves as the alternative to cuts and to the big parties. The IU (United Left), have gained 11 seats in congress, 9 more than in 2008. They are a stronger force, although this should not affect the PP’s plans due to their absolute majority, and the fact that they control most of the autonomies due to their victory in the regional elections in May.
The PP has run a shrewd campaign, with the main goal of the campaign to guard the lead they had in the polls, and not to scare swing voters. They had learnt from the Conservatives campaign in 2010, where the cuts rhetoric meant that the conservatives did not achieve a majority, which lead to the coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The PP has not offered many proposals, or explained how they are going to improve the dire situation that Spain finds itself in. The PP electoral programme was critical of the current state of the country but vague on how these problems could be resolved. As the economist argues, by not spelling out his proposals, Mariano Rajoy has caused some problems. For example, he has promised to save guard pensions, and also lower taxes to small and medium business, without concreting how this will be paid for, and arguing that austerity and cuts will be necessary. At the same time, he has promised to protect education and health care. The PP’s discourse instead focused on the problems that the socialists had not resolved, rather than giving a coherent plan to tackle the problems. For example, in the only debate that took place, Rajoy ducked any compromising questions, and stuck to his script literally, as he continued to read his notes during the debate, and explained how the current situation was unacceptable and the socialists were to blame.
The fall of the PSOE
Spain’s most successful party since the return to democracy without doubt has been the PSOE (Spanish Working Class Socialist Party), who have ruled Spain for 22 years out of 33. However this was their worst result ever, with 110 seats in the congress. AS many commentators have argued, the PSOE were doomed from the start of the campaign, and although Alfredo Rubalcaba replaced the unpopular outgoing Prime Minister, Zapatero, there was too much ground to gain, and the PSOE had become a tainted brand, due to the slow reaction to the financial crisis and for not reacting to the housing bubble bust. Socialist voters have flocked to other left wing parties, who have offered a refuge for disheartened PSOE supporters, with the IU being the obvious choice. The PSOE will need time to reflect on this result, and look towards the future. In February, there will be a congress in Seville, where the new leader of the party will be chosen, who certainly needs to look at how to improve the image of the party, whilst being a responsible opposition to Rajoy and the PP. At the moment, it looks like it will be a two horse race between the PSOE’s candidate for the elections, Alfredo Rubalcaba, and the leader of the PSOE in Catalonia, Carme Chacon.
This week, the prime minister elect has remained silent over his plans, working in his office talking to other heads of state, banks, and the current prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. However, the Spanish public wait in expectation as to what exactly Rajoy wants to do. In his victory speech, he claimed that he had not promised miracles, but he would get to work straight away on resolving the crisis; which in other words, means that there will be deep cuts in Spain, as the country tries to tackle its economic woes, with the country still lying in the risk zone, and the markets not responding very well to the change of government, and the fact that they don’t exactly know Rajoy’s plans. As Angela Merkel suggested this week, Rajoy has the absolute majority which will allow him to push through the reforms that Spain need in order to improve the economic situation, and hopefully, his government can get Spaniards back into work, which is the main worry for many who have job uncertainty, or have lost their jobs already.