Like in the movie Groundhog Day, the electoral cycle starts again. And once again, in this continuous swing of pompous promises, an analysis is needed that tries to answer the following question: What do the main parties propose in terms of Defence? We proceed to make a review; the order that follows obeys to the parliamentary representation (number of deputies) harvested in the last elections of national character.
For the 28 April elections, the PSOE presented its programme under the slogan “make it happen”. In this document, which is almost 300 pages long, there are no proposals in relation to the Defence as such, beyond an improvement in the remuneration (p.179).
However, in the seventh and last chapter of the paper, the formation led by Pedro Sánchez refers to “International Security” (p.280). In this section, the importance of cybersecurity stands out, along with illicit trafficking, as the main threats facing Spain.
It also cites the party’s willingness to support the institutional strengthening of the countries of transit of these flows, with particular emphasis on the Sahel area. In this sense, the PSOE stresses its intention to assume “leadership in peace missions endorsed by the United Nations or other international organisations of which we are part” (p.281). This statement confirms the PSOE’s total adherence to a “progressive conception of multilateralism”, one of the signs with which they identify themselves (p.22). However, no concrete proposal related to Defence can be found.
Also in 2019, the Partido Popular presented its election program with the title “Safe Value” and an extension of 101 pages. In this case, we can find a section dedicated to the Defence (p.89). In it, there are proposals that can be framed in the following axes. On the one hand, those related to human capital. The PP proposes sustainable salary increases, greater facilities for reintegration into the civilian world, and measures to promote family reconciliation. Also the increase of places for the Voluntary Military Reserve, especially with the appearance of the figure of the Cyber-Reserve.
In this aspect the PP is committed to the configuration of a cyber defence joint command, through the creation of a Strategic Talent Reserve in Cybersecurity, formed by the aforementioned voluntary reservists.
None of the parties present concrete figures. For example, the percentage of GDP they are going to allocate.
It also highlights the strengthening of relations with two international organisations: NATO and the European Union. Along these lines, they place the reinforcement of the role in NATO as the first proposal (number 481), the promotion of the European Defence Initiative (PESCO), and support for dual-use R&D.
In relation as Ciudadanos, like the parties already analysed, it presents its programme in 2019 under the maxim “Our Commitment to Citizens”, and is divided into fourteen chapters. In his case, there is a section entitled “A National Defence and Security Policy that allows us to face the new global threats”. It is included in Chapter 13, “A Security and Defence Policy Adapted to the 21st Century”. Specifically, this section on Defence is the last point of the chapter and has only four proposals as opposed to the eleven that contemplate sections one, two and three, related to Security.
In fact, of the four proposals, the last one, which deals with progress on the Anti-Jihadist Pact (number 165), should also be included in Security. Therefore, the Citizens in Defence approach is reduced to improving investment in R&D, especially in Cyber Defence, as well as the conditions of the members of the Armed Forces. In particular, through the implementation of a single Military Career Act, which prevents the expulsion of personnel belonging to the Troop and Seamanship Scale by age, and ensures the reintegration of those who have been so because they are over 45 years old. They also seek to promote family reconciliation and geographical mobility.
Podemos, as the fourth political force in the Congress of Deputies, published its electoral program with the emblem of “The reasons remain intact” and an extension of 119 pages. Of this document, the proposals devoted exclusively to Defence are limited to two. Number 185, concerning the equalisation of salaries and rights. In this regard, we can propose a progressive increase in the amount dedicated to remuneration and, furthermore, grant the military the fundamental rights of assembly, demonstration, association, freedom of expression, unionisation and affiliation to political parties. It also proposes the elimination of the Fifth Military Chamber of the Supreme Court.
His second proposal (number 186) emphasises “stopping the undercover ERE of the Ministry of Defence and the military over 45 years old”. To achieve this, it wants to reform Law 39/2007 of 19 November, with the aim of establishing a comprehensive military career without time commitments.
Finally, the VOX election document is reduced to 100 measurements. In relation to Defence, it includes a chapter called “Defence, security and Borders”, in which three proposals are framed. The first, increase and rationalise the budget in this item and implement a new defence policy, aimed at “protecting our country in an autonomous way” (measure number 27).
The second is the recognition as a merit to those spanish who have served in the army for twenty years. This will have priority in the “opposition to police, municipal, forestry and prison officials…” (number 29).
The third measure consist of Spain’s participation in military combat missions “against the jihadist threat in accordance with our interests and capabilities” (measure number 32).
Having made this small analysis of the contributions of the main political parties, some conclusions can be drawn:
-There is a consensus on the need for better pay and greater drive to reconcile families.
-All formations are considering reforming law 39/2007 on the Military career, specially to resolve the situation of members of the Troop and seamanship scale over the age of 45 years old.
-Cyber defence is one of the great challenges of the 21st century.
-None of the parties present concrete figures. For example, the percentage of GDP they are going to allocate.
However, beyond the common points, the relevance they give to defence issues does not correspond to what one of the fundamental pillars of any society would have. In fact, either they don’t have a chapter of their own (PSOE, Podemos), or they place it in the last place of their programmes (PP and ciudadanos). To change this dynamic, it is imperative that the parties, as intermediaries between society and the state, propose a defence culture that allows citizens to know more about the men and women who make up the Armed Forces, their needs and capabilities.
It constitutes a crucial didactic function, with which to correct, for example, that, in the 2015 CIS on National Defence and the Armed Forces, in its question 22, which reads: ¿is the annual budget allocated in Spain to national defence and the armed forces excessive, inadequate or insufficient, and nearly 40 percent of the answers were “don’t know”. This lack of awareness (and consciousness) of this reality is something that a society cannot afford. And political representatives should understand that the national interest is above their own.