By Hanif Ghafari 

French Protests spread to Spain

December 19, 2018

TEHRAN - The recent anti-government demonstrations which took place in 200 cities in Spain, has hit hard on Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The massive demonstrations took place while Spain, traditionally, and due to its vulnerability to the economic crisis, has the potential of becoming one of the main centers of the crisis in the United Europe and the Eurozone.

 This was proven during protests that took place after the economic crisis, and from 2007 to 2010 in Europe. Subsequently, Spanish citizens pursued their economic demands in the elections, or in public polls. However, the equation seems to be different this time! It seems that the rise of the "yellow vests" in Paris and other French cities has also affected the Spanish internal and social equations.

Accordingly, Daily Sabah reported that the month-long French "yellow vest" demonstrations, which have led to repeated rioting in Paris, have inspired protesters worldwide. Over the weekend, yellow vest protests spread to Canada and Spain, and protesters wearing yellow vests took the streets in various cities across the two countries on Saturday.

The report continues; "In Spain, protesters, inspired by the rallies that have been taking place in France, marched in Madrid during a demonstration by yellow vest movement calling for better pensions on Saturday. On Friday, several hundred yellow vest protesters demonstrated on the streets of Israel's commercial hub Tel Aviv against the high cost of living, mirroring the yellow vest movement. Videos on social media showed people in fluorescent-yellow safety vests holding Israeli flags, megaphones, and signs on a central street in the coastal city."

As mentioned, people took to the streets in two hundred cities in Spain, protesting the low income of retirees, in a massive public scene. At the rally, the protesters demanded an increase in minimum pension rights. Madrid, Barcelona, Corona and Seville were among the cities where protest rallies were held. However, the slogans that broke down in the protests signaled the disappointment of Spanish citizens of the Socialist and Conservative Parties.

 During the demonstrations, the Spanish citizens essentially called for a third party that would redefine Spain's economic and political equations on the basis of the "transition from existing conditions" and "creation of new foundations". Participants in the demonstration chanted against the leaders of the left and right parties.

 The parties were accused by angry protesters of inability to provide a fundamental solution to the economic problems (especially for the retired). The charge applies to both major political trends in Spain that traditionally hold the power in the country. 

The recent protests in Spain have raised many concerns at both domestic and European levels. At the domestic level, Pedro Sanchez is concerned about the escalation of the protests and the collapse of his government. Because the current economic crisis in Spain is so severe that he can't offer many concessions to the protesters.

 At the same time, the protesters are so angry with the Spanish government that perhaps only some economic and welfare benefits can calm them down. In this regard, it is possible to compare the anger of Spanish demonstrators with the anger of the yellow vests in France.

 Some experts believe that if the protest rallies in Spain are repeated, and it becomes a trend, the administration of Pedro Sánchez can't stop the protesters' anger even by granting some economic and welfare benefits, and thus he'll have no way but to resign from power. In this case, even the holding of an early election and the presence of rival leaders can't be a fundamental solution to the current crises in Spain.

Spain's Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has recently promised a huge jump in the minimum wage to be in effect from the beginning of 2019. It's to be noted that the 22 percent rise is the largest in more than 40 years. This move came two days after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a 100 euro increase for minimum wage earners following the yellow vests protests. 

However, it seems that the anger of Spanish citizens of the economic process that has been taking place in Spain (since 2007) is such that Sanchez administration is incapable to manage it. In the past, economic and social protests in the European Union began in countries like Greece and Spain and spread to other countries. This created the opportunity for the European troika to "temporarily curb the crisis."

 But this time the current protests in Europe started from France, which is the second economy in the Eurozone, and then spread to other countries. Obviously, under such circumstances, restraining the crisis by the European authorities would be far more difficult, and the impact of the crisis on other member states and even non-members in the Eurozone will be even greater, and Spain is no exception to this rule. 

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