Spain’s Andalusia calls regional vote in test for PM

The leader of Spain's most populous region, Andalusia, on Monday called a regional election for June 19th that could see far-right party Vox make gains and step further into the political mainstream.

Spain's Andalusia calls regional vote in test for PM
Andalusia's conservative regional president Juanma Moreno Bonilla in 2019. Surveys suggest the PP will win the most seats in the next election. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

The polls in the southern region will be a test for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s minority government ahead of a national election expected at the end of next year.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) has governed Andalusia, a traditional stronghold of the Socialists, since January 2019 in a minority with the support of Vox and market-friendly party Ciudadanos.

The government’s term expires in December but regional president Juanma Moreno said Andalusia needed a government with a fresh mandate to tackle soaring inflation and the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.

Andalusian law prohibits a regional election from being held in July and August, when many voters are on summer holidays.

Leaving the polls until autumn would not give a new administration enough time to approve a budget for 2023 that confronts the “difficult time we are living in,” said Moreno.

“There is no time to lose,” he added in a televised address.

Vox emerged as a kingmaker in Andalusia in the region’s last polls in December 2018, taking a surprise 12 seats in the first electoral success for the far right since Spain returned to democracy in the late 1970s.

Surveys suggest the PP will win the most seats in the next election and could manage to form a majority in the 109-seat assembly if it forms a coalition with Vox.

The PP has 33.1 percent support, which would give it 44 seats, while Vox on track to win 20 seats, according to a poll published Sunday in daily newspaper El Mundo.

That would give the two formations a total of 64 seats, nine more then needed for an absolute majority.

Vox was sworn in as part of a regional coalition government for the first time earlier this month in the central Castilla y Leon region just north of Madrid where it now governs with the PP.

Founded in 2014, Vox’s platform includes a crackdown on immigration, restricting abortion and rolling back domestic violence laws.

Andalusia, home to 8.5 million people, has high unemployment and is one of the main arrival points in Spain for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

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EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

The Spanish government has passed a draft bill that seeks to beef up the fight against human trafficking and exploitation, addressing everything from prostitution to arranged marriages and organ trafficking.

EXPLAINED: What is Spain’s anti-trafficking law?

On November 29th, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a draft law aimed at tackling human trafficking.

The law, known as la ley de trata (or anti-trafficking law) will bolster measures against sexual exploitation, forced and arranged marriages, slavery, forced labour, organ and tissue removal, and situations where vulnerable people are forced to engage in criminal activity.

Spain’s Justice Minister, Pilar Llop, said that the law will protect “people who suffer a lot in our country and also in other countries around the world,” strengthening the fight against trafficking mafias and organised crime groups to “break the business chain that is generated using human beings as commodities.”

The law will, among other things, create a national plan for the prevention of trafficking, protection and privacy protocols, a compensation fund for victims, social, health and financial support, and increase awareness of the problem at the educational level.

A particular focus of the legislation will be on minors, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees – groups thought to be most vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

Prostitution in Spain

Many cases of human trafficking in Spain result in sexual exploitation, but there exists no single law that deals directly with prostitution in Spain. Prostitution was decriminalised in 1995, though its related activities, such as pimping, trafficking, and sexual exploitation are still illegal.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on prostitution in Spain?

Although the clandestine nature of the sex work makes accurate data hard to find, according to a 2011 UN report, Spain is the third biggest centre for prostitution in the world, behind only Thailand and Puerto Rico.

In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that over 70,000 prostitutes were working in Spain, but some estimates put that number as high 350,000.

It is believed that 80 percent of them are foreigners, with many reportedly coming from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and eastern Europe.

If the draft law is finally approved, its sexual exploitation clauses would include prison sentences of up to eight years for procurers such as pimps or madams.

Customers of prostitutes that have been forced to be sexual workers could also face fines and prison sentences of between six months and four years.

The Spanish government wants prostitution banned in its current form in Spain.

Forced labour

Clearly, the ley de trata will hope to combat some of the sexual exploitation of women in Spain, but the anti-trafficking legislation is more far-reaching than that and is also intended to tackle forced labour and slavery – two big but underreported problems in Spain.

According to the U.S State Department’s 2022 report on human trafficking in Spain, “labour trafficking is under-identified in Spain. Authorities report the pandemic increased worker vulnerabilities and contributed to the rise in labour trafficking in 2020 and 2021, especially in agriculture, domestic work, and cannabis cultivation in Catalonia.”

“In 2022, Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and children fleeing Russia’s war against Ukraine, are vulnerable to trafficking. Labour traffickers continue to exploit men and women from Eastern Europe and South and East Asia, particularly Pakistan, in the textile, construction, industrial, beauty, elder care facilities, and retail sectors.”

It should be said, however, that the report also notes that “the government of Spain fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and kept it in its Tier 1 of nations.

What does Spain’s anti-trafficking law include?

  • National Trafficking Plan

The law will create a protocol to coordinate the immediate referral of trafficked persons to specialised services, which will be overseen by a National Rapporteur on Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings run through Spain’s Interior Ministry, according to the Spanish government website.

The rapporteur will oversee anti-trafficking policy and represent Spain in the international arena, a role considered crucial as human trafficking is often a cross border, international problem.

  • Education

According to Article 7 of the law, efforts will also be made to improve educational awareness of the problems of trafficking and exploitation with a focus on human rights, sexual education, and democratic values.

  • Social, labour, and health support

A ‘Social and Labour Insertion Plan’ will be created for victims of trafficking and exploitation that provides social, health and employment support for victims.

This could include housing access, physical, psychological and sexual health support, employment opportunities, and financial assistance for victims and their family members.

  • Tightening labour market regulation

As trafficked and exploited people are so often brought in from abroad (and often dependent on the traffickers themselves for housing, food, money and so on) the regulation of migrant worker recruitment will be tightened through beefed up surveillance and labour standards.

  • Compensation fund

A compensation fund – the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Trafficking and Exploitation (FIVTE) – will also be created, and will be taken from state budgets, as well as money or goods confiscated from convicted traffickers.

  • Protection and privacy

The anti-trafficking law will also provide protection services and maintain the victim’s right to privacy, protect their identity, access to free legal advice and even offer a living income.

According to Article 36 of the bill, victims trafficked from abroad will have the right to voluntary and assisted return to their country of origin. If they were brought illegally into Spain and don’t have official documentation, the Spanish government will issue them with the appropriate papers needed for travel as well as provide them with the option of residency.