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Guatemala's new centre-left president Bernardo Arévalo. AFP
Empty threats
Opinion

Empty threats

The phrase 'threat to democracy' is one of the most over-used in contemporary political discourse; so much so, in fact, that it has lost all meaning

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 15 December 2023, 16:00

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In his speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Pedro Sánchez deployed diversionary tactics similar to those used in Brussels a couple of weeks ago by his justice minister Félix Bolaños.

But whereas Bolaños favoured gaslighting, Sánchez planted a decoy by claiming that the 'real threat [to democracy] in Spain and in Europe' is the rise of the far-right', a trend which the PSOE leader also claimed 'weakens the European project'.

The phrase 'threat to democracy' is one of the most over-used in contemporary political discourse; so much so, in fact, that it has lost all meaning.

That is certainly true of the context in which it is most commonly reached for - i.e. when the left refers to a democratic process that has resulted in the election of a party or parties on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

It is apparently not enough to say 'this is a party with which mine profoundly disagrees and which we therefore believe to be wrong in its views about how best to run a society'.

Rather, the party or parties in question must be the result of an electoral malfunction. A moment of sheer idiocy on the part of the electorate or the rise of a would-be autocracy that has bypassed democratic institutions. And, once in power, would destroy them altogether (such as Franco's).

But only in the first and third scenarios could the resulting government really be described as a 'threat to democracy'.

Ironically, it was Sánchez who this week urged the rest of the EU to recognise Guatemala's new centre-left president Bernardo Arévalo.

Arévalo's election to the presidency in June, said Sánchez, represented 'the will of the citizens expressed at the polls', whereas the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor's investigation into his party's allegedly dodgy financing 'threaten[s] democracy' (there's that phrase again).

One therefore assumes that Sánchez would view any future corruption probes against Spanish governments, including those led by his political adversaries, as endangering democracy.

But, of course, he never condemned the Gürtel case in such terms - the administration under investigation was right, not left, of centre, and its downfall was the necessary condition of his seizure of power in 2018.

Rather than describing the rise of Vox and its partnership with the PP in several regions across Spain as a result of 'the will of [Spanish] citizens expressed at the polls', Sánchez sees that situation as constituting a 'threat to democracy'.

Pretty rich, you might think, coming from a man whose mandate, such as it is, rests entirely on a deal with Catalan separatists that was condemned by 70% of Spaniards and about which the EU is seriously concerned.

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