By Gregory White
May 20, 2011
Protests have been raging in Spain since Sunday, May 15. The one we’ve been seeing pictures of is in Madrid, in the famous Puerta del Sol. But there were protests in 60 different locationson Sunday, and they’re still raging in different parts of the country.
The center of the movement is very much Puerta del Sol, where protesters are now camping out overnight just like they did in Tahrir Square in Egypt. The protesters claim they will stay in the square until after regional elections this Sunday, according to Der Spiegel. The protest movement has been declared illegal by the government, over fears it may influence the result of the elections. The traditional media is allegedly under-covering the story.
Protesters aren’t associated with any political party in particular and, instead, the movement is serving as a catch all for those upset over the current economic situation in Spain. The country has a 21% unemployment rate and a 43% youth unemployment rate. Its inflation rate is above the eurozone average and its growth remains low.
From the outside looking in, it resembles the situation in Egypt in many ways. Disaffected youth, enraged by a high unemployment rate, communicating over new forms of social media, subverting the traditional power structure in the country.
But Spain is a completely different country than Egypt, and others experiencing protest movements in the Middle East. It’s democratic, and protesters are requesting reforms, not regicide. And things are getting better in Spain, although perhaps not fast enough.
In many ways, it comes down to what happens at this weekend’s elections, according to Pau Garcia:
If the upcoming elections see a raise in the number of voters, but a decline in the two biggest political parties (Out own republican and democrat parties) , the social movement will go further, and probably some key changes will start to evolve. But if less people vote, or in uncertainty the fear moves people to the biggest parties, as strong as the tide arrived, it will go back to the traditional and sadly famous Spanish lack of interest on anything beyond food, R&R and soccer.
So you need to watch the protests closely, especially in the wake of Sunday’s elections.