EU elections, prostitution law fails, and a political update from Spain

June 10, 2024

Yesterday Europe celebrated an election.

An election to form a new EU Parliament, specifically.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I suspect I’m not the only person in Europe who has no idea what the EU Parliament does. Reading Wikipedia doesn’t help much: apparently there’s an EU Parliament, an EU Council and an EU Commission, and they all do similar – yet somehow different – things.

Then, of course, there’s the Council of the EU, and the European Council.

eu parliament building brussels

I don’t know. It gets confusing.

The newspapers like to make every election into a huge festival of clickbait, in which the fates of Spain, Europe and the world hang in the balance… but participation in European Parliamentary elections tends to be pretty low, and 2024 was no exception.

Election results – EU Parliament, 2024

This time the right won, sort of. But the way these things go, almost any party can declare victory with any percentage of the vote.

As of today, it looks like the biggest loser is Emmanuel Macron in France, who called for an early election after Marine Le Pen’s far right party “won” with 31% – beating Macron’s Renaissance party comfortably.

There are long lists of parties in these elections, apparently, so 31% is a resounding victory.

More about all that later.

In any case, I wonder to what extent people are supposed to care about yet another layer of bureaucracy that has no obvious effect on their lives. When the Brexit referendum went down, back in 2016, it became apparent that a lot of people didn’t really know what the EU does. Do they know now? I don’t. Not really.

Except for the ease of travel and the fact that citizens (not me) can live in any EU country they want, it’s not really obvious. Although I guess it’s also possible that I’m just an ignorant American who doesn’t understand the nuances.

But let’s talk about something else for a minute…

Is prostitution still legal in Spain?

Here in Spain, we recently had an update in the national prostitution debate.

I wrote about the whole prostitution in Spain thing a couple of years ago: that it’s a legal grey area, that it’s come up for debate recently, and that hiring the services of prostitutes is very popular among Spanish men – even younger ones. And I see the stats for web traffic here… it’s something of a popular Google search as well.

The Socialist party had promised to regulate and / or abolish prostitution as part of their electoral program. They are, after all, running the most feminist government in Spanish history. And I guess some people had high hopes. But On May 21 their proposal was voted on in the Spanish Congreso de Diputados, and rejected.

The Partido Popular voted against it, as did Sumar (the far left party, who usually vote on the same side as the Socialists) and some of the regional parties. Vox and Podemos abstained. In other words: only the socialists voted for the law, which doesn’t work if you have a coalition government.

So I guess a law against prostitution isn’t happening. The legal grey area remains.

congreso de los diputados spain

Why did it fail? The proposed law would have left the prostitutes themselves alone. Instead, it would have fined “customers” of the prostitution industry, and would have made it illegal to rent out rooms for the purpose of prostitution – my understanding is that many of the bordellos out there on the highways are run more or less like hostels, with the girls renting rooms from the owners.

Anyway, everyone except the PSOE voted against the proposed law – presumably for a variety of reasons. Some say it was far too ambiguous: the law mentioned “actos de naturaleza sexual” in exchange for money, which could mean almost anything… would they be arresting guys for getting lap dances? OnlyFans subscribers? It wasn’t really clear.

Also, if an old Spanish granny rents out a flat to someone who decides – of their own volition – to prostitute themselves, can granny be prosecuted as a pimp? It sure sounded like it, according to what I read…

After the controversy around the “Solo sí es sí” law that re-defined sexual assault a couple of years ago, nobody wants more controversy deriving from ambiguous laws – except, apparently, the PSOE.

The rise of the far right, again…

Back to the EU elections for a moment, though.

Like I said, the right won yesterday. And every time any right-leaning party has a good day, the media goes into a panic and creates tons of content about the “rise of the far right”.

Here in Spain, incidentally, the right-wingers at Vox seem to have had their rise and fall already. They didn’t do very well in the last national election. I haven’t heard much about them recently at all – Spain seems to be firmly in the hands of the left. That’s the regular left – the far-lefties out at Podemos have been splitting up their parties and descending into irrelevance for several years now.

This time, Vox got about 10% of the vote here in Spain – hardly a huge gain.

Notably, though, a guy called Alvise Pérez (who I’m just hearing of this morning) won three seats in yesterday’s election with a new group called Se Acabó la Fiesta – “The Party is Over”. Like I said – there are long lists of parties you can choose from. La Vanguardia calls Pérez a “right-wing agitator” and Wikipedia says he’s admitted he’s running in order to get immunity from prosecution.

Apparently he’s most famous for his broadcast channel on Telegram.

It’s interesting that the media types have all this time to spend lamenting the rise of the far right, but they mostly refuse to look into what actually drives people to vote for, I don’t know, some lunatic from Telegram. Maybe (and this is just a guess) a lot of regular folks think the “poli-sci grads in expensive outfits” crowd is totally out of touch with their reality, and need a smackdown. But we may never know. The media doesn’t seem to care.

In my day to day here in Barcelona, it doesn’t seem like too many people are publicly worked up about politics. But that could just be the kind of people I hang out with – and (importantly) don’t hang out with.

Interestingly, in the Catalan elections a few weeks ago, the independence parties didn’t do very well. So we might be nearing the end of that whole thing.

I guess only time will tell whether the far right is on the rise for real, or whether this is just a blip in history.

Without some form of clickbait, most media companies would be bankrupt by this Thursday. So it’s not like there’s much incentive for them to calm down about things.

The majority is always wrong

A lot of people seem to think that politics is driven by the “fact” that 50% of the population is stupid.

“My party didn’t win”, the argument seems to say, “because there are too many stupid people in this country.”

The corollary seems to be that “Obviously, if it weren’t for all these stupid people, my party would just win every single election.”

While that’s probably a comforting thought that allows you to avoid actually confronting ideas you disagree with, I have a few doubts about it. Mostly, it doesn’t explain the rise and fall of certain parties.

How, for example, did Podemos go from non-existence in 2012 to getting 21% of the vote in 2015 and 2016, and then to almost total irrelevance today – assuming that the level of intelligence of the Spanish population has remained fairly constant?

It’s more likely that the issues that worry large groups of people tend to shift over time, and that the poli sci grads in expensive outfits aren’t always great at keeping up – which leaves an opening for some random person with a reality TV show or a large Telegram channel to speak to people’s actual concerns.

I guess we’ll be hearing more about the French election in the next few weeks. France is like Spain’s rich uncle, as far as countries go. And it seems like we’ve got another election coming up in the US as well. Sort of a boring repetition of the last one, if I understand correctly. Probably nothing to get worked up about.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Mark Twain that I think about a lot: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Hope you have a good day out there, wherever you are.

Yours,

Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Okay, the EU is also responsible for the single European currency, obviously. When I say I have no idea what they do, I’m exaggerating a little bit. But I’d like to point out that there are lots of ways to have an impact in the world – other than politics. Scientists, artists, and creatives of all kinds change the world every day – often to little fanfare. So vote in your elections, or don’t. This isn’t clickbait. Do what you want.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Lo he estudiado pero tampoco entiendo muy bien las funciones de cada institución.
    Solo sé que ser europarlamentario es un chollo. A cada uno le dan un teléfono móvil una tablet un ordenador y un sueldo de muchos dígitos.
    Para qué sirven en realidad no lo sé, yvsoy española y he sido funcionaria

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