Galicia faces, next Sunday, a new election, uncertain and that could generate a historic change in regional politics, where the Popular Party has governed for decades.
Without the “leader” figure of Alberto Núñez Feijóo, that after four mandates obtained with an absolute majority, he left the Xunta government in 2022 to become the president of the party from Madrid, the domain of the PP – which He ruled Galicia for 38 of the 43 years that autonomy has – is faltering, according to some surveys.
The latest duels at the national level over the amnesty for Catalan independentists between the PP, the main opposition party, and the PSOE of the president of the government, Pedro Sánchez, are a sandpaper of even wear that, in the case of Núñez Feijóo, It causes a shock wave that reaches their lands.
The leader of the PP He has been traveling through Galicia for days and adding his face to an electoral campaign in which his political future is at stake.
Alberto Nuñez Feijóo, the leader of the PP, has been touring Galicia for days. Photo: EFE/file
There are projections that give considerable growth to the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) that, in alliance with other leftist forces -such as the PSOE or Sumar- I could cherish the dream of forming a government.
This Monday the latest survey from the Center for Sociological Studies was released. According to this survey, the PP would obtain between 34 and 38 seats and the BNG, between 24 and 31. The PSOE, which in the last elections had 14 deputies in the Galician Parliament, this time would obtain between 9 and 14.
Gallegos in Argentina: how to vote
When thinking about who can vote in Galicia, autonomy has a curiosity: it is the Spanish region with the largest number of voters abroad.
Around the 20 percent of the almost 2,700,000 Galicians who are called to the polls on February 18 lives outside Spain.
That is why the vote abroad is so important, as it could tip the balance of a result that, this time, is postulated to be very close and on the margins of that traditional absolute majority of the conservative vote.
Argentina, with emigrants and their descendants, concentrates the largest Galician community abroad.
Argentina, with emigrants and their descendants, concentrates the largest Galician community abroad.
And third of Galicians registered in the Census of Absent Residents It is in our country. And the joke is already known: Buenos Aires is considered the fifth Galician province, along with La Coruña, Lugo, Orense and Pontevedra.
Its the first timeFurthermore, the Galicians who live outside the Spanish borders They will be able to vote without having to request to do so -what was previously known as a “requested vote”-. The ballots arrived at their homes and there are two possibilities to choose their candidates: by mail -until Tuesday, February 13- or personally at the consulates -until Thursday the 15th-.
The woman who wants to preside over the Xunta
The regional Parliament is made up of 75 seats, of which the PP obtained 42 in the last elections in 2020. That is, four more deputies of the 38 that indicate the absolute majority that implies half plus one of the seats that make up the Chamber.
In these elections, for the first time, a woman has a chance of reaching the Xunta.
In these elections, for the first time, a woman has a chance of reaching the Xunta: Ana Belén Pontón Mondelo. Photo: Courtesy/BNG
Her name is Ana Pontón, she was born in 1977 in a rural village in the province of Lugo and she loves reading Rosalía de Castro.
His father worked in a cement factory and she studied political sciencewith a scholarship, in Santiago de Compostela.
Before turning 30, she was already a deputy and has led the BNG since 2016.
With her at the helm, her party went from having 6 deputies in the regional Parliament to 19 in the 2020 elections.
“In these elections It is decided whether there will be a president of the PP or a woman president of the BNG“says Ana Pontón in an exclusive chat with Clarín.
“I encourage us to make history so that, 43 years later, we have for the first time a female president, who will work to strengthen the ties of communication and recognition to the entire Galician community that we have abroad,” Pontón will insist.
“We have a debt with them. A part of Galicia is in emigration. That also makes us more universal and we need to reinforce that recognition and those ties that allow us that feeling of 'Galicianness' to survive and that all who want can return.
-What are the proposals for those Galicians who are in other countries?
-First, recover the memory we have. We have to value all that contribution they have made throughout Argentina. The only time I was able to visit Buenos Aires I was in the Galician Center, that important space for our community, which was eliminated. It would be necessary to recover that memory. And we have to increase the measures that allow people who can return to have the security that we want to count on them here. And vice versa. That we can study in our schools what emigration meant and what its contribution has been to the development of Galicia.
-Galicia, like all of Spain, suffers from demographic problems. If you are president, do you plan to attract young people of Galician descent?
-Return is an important part of what Galicia needs. We have a demographic crisis that is getting bigger and bigger. In a population of less than two million inhabitants, one hundred thousand people have disappeared in the last 15 years. We are going to bet that this emigration community knows that in Galicia it has a welcome land. We would like all young people who want to return to Galicia to come. Here they will have facilities when it comes to studying, homologating their degrees, accompanying access to housing or being able to establish companies here.
-What changed in Galicia to open the possibility for a woman and the BNG to govern the Xunta?
-Galician society has realized that the Popular Party is leaving a worse country, in which we have a healthcare system that today has waiting lists to go to the family doctor. We have 11 thousand boys and girls without a pediatrician, we have lost industry. The needs of older people have not been met. A significant number of young people continue to emigrate. We are talking about that in these 15 years 200 thousand people under 30 years of age have taken their suitcases. Therefore, the feeling we have is that there is an end to the cycle of the Popular Party. Polls tell us that the majority of people want change. And there, emigration can play a key role in pushing for this change that will be fundamental for the future of Galicia.
-In previous elections, the vote of Argentine Galicians has benefited the PP. Why would someone who does not live in Galicia vote for BNG?
-I know that there are many people who are descendants, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Galicians, but who feel a bond with our country. That beyond the fact that her life has developed in Argentina, she is attached to that “Galicianness” that is in her heart. And that is where I want to speak from. Because from Argentina we can also push for a change in Galicia in favor of the people, in defense of education and health, of a better future for young people, of feminism.
-Spain is living a moment in which the territorial debate and nationalism are very established in daily life. Is it a situation that favors the BNG?
-We are not thinking about what happens in the State. We are thinking about what happens in Galicia. In fact, the Popular Party, in this campaign, is trying to hide its management beneath these state-level debates. We are focusing on talking about Galicia, about the lives of Galicians, on denouncing how public health is being destroyed, how there are fewer and fewer opportunities for young people. How the price of housing has increased. What we are focusing on is Galicia. We see in the polls that in these elections what is voted for in a general election is not repeated. In these elections there is a Galician key.
-The fact that they are a nationalist party, are they an independence option?
-We are a nationalist organization that defends that the more decision-making power the Galician people have in their hands, the better. What we believe is that we are in a moment in which the structure of the State and the debate on the territorial model is open and that the path we must pursue is the recognition of plurinationality, pluriculturality and plurilingualism, which is something that exists. We have our language, our culture. We are not more than anyone but we do not want to be less either.
-Does asking for more self-government mean wanting to be an independent republic like Catalonia?
-I think that asking for more self-government, in the specific case of Galicia, is for the current statute to be developed. We have more than 35 powers pending transfer and we want to open a debate on how this plurinationality is recognized in the State. I think that Galicia has to be there with its own voice. We neither copy nor imitate what the Basques or Catalans do.
-Does the current debate surrounding the amnesty law favor or hinder the proposals of nationalist parties such as the Galician party?
-I think that in Galicia that is not an element that is influencing the campaign. The PP is seeing how this design in which it tries to hide the failure of its management behind debates such as the amnesty is not working because the Galicians know that what cuts off their public health care is not the amnesty law but the PP; It is not the amnesty law that has closed more than 150 schools in our country, it is the PP; It is not the amnesty law that has caused 200,000 young people to emigrate, it is the PP.
-Sumar, the party of Vice President Yolanda Díaz, believes that it will be the key to a possible left-wing government in Galicia. Do you see yourself in that scenario?
-Governments are decided by citizens with their vote. Next February 18, those who have to speak are the Galician men and women. It doesn't make much sense to talk about a pact. I do believe in the culture of dialogue, of agreement, of the ability to understand each other between political forces that are different.
-The BNG, which supported the re-election of Pedro Sánchez, has a seat in the Congress of Deputies. What did your party ask for in exchange for supporting Sánchez's investiture?
-We have an investiture agreement that reinforces the solution to problems that depend on the State and that, until now, had not been addressed in Galicia. We are committed to launching local railway services, which is key for some of our cities. We have achieved a reduction in the toll on national highways in our provinces for Galicians and we have made progress in other areas of infrastructure and social policies. It is an investiture agreement and not a legislative agreement and that will leave our hands free throughout this entire mandate. We are going to continue negotiating to improve the lives of Galician men and women and to advance rights and freedoms.
-Why did Galicia become a fundamental cog in the Spanish political board? Núñez Feijóo and Yolanda Díaz mark a presence in the territory and campaign with their candidates. Both are Galician, but are national leaderships at stake in these regional elections?
-In the Spanish State we see a phenomenon: Madrid politics wants to become the center of everything. And he is trying to do so in these elections. They want to transfer us here the battles of Madrid that interest us nothing and that solve nothing for us. These elections are about the lives of Galician men and women and are neither Pedro Sánchez's revalidation nor Feijóo's consolation prize.