The Sahara: A Land of Contrasts and Political Intrigues

In these days, my thoughts have traveled back in time to the 1990s in Tangier, recalling a fleeting friendship with a peculiar neighbor who lived his final days. Back then, Tangier had a unique atmosphere, and despite his fame transcending borders, my friend Paul Bowles, the author of “The Sheltering Sky” and other captivating novels, was just one of us in our city. I remembered one of his most famous quotes about the Sahara: “The most beautiful place in the world precisely because there is nothing. The sky has light, but it is not real, it is not there, only the night is always present.”

As always, politics intertwines with daily life in Tangier, especially during electoral times. The Sahara, as expected, enters the electoral debate and will shape the agenda of the future government, no matter its political color. The upcoming Spanish elections on Sunday will leave three possible outcomes.

If the left-leaning bloc wins, Pedro Sánchez may update the framework of dialogue with the southern neighbor and move forward with the agenda set during the last bilateral summit. However, this time, he will face a new element with the inevitable presence of Yolanda Díaz within the government, which will put him in a tight spot regarding the Sahara issue.

On the other hand, if the right-leaning bloc wins, they will be obliged to maintain the stance adopted by Pedro Sánchez, much like what happened with Biden regarding Trump’s policies, where he did not dare to backtrack. In this scenario, Núñez Feijoo will benefit from the counsel of a staunch defender of Algerian interests, such as Alejandro Agag.

The third possible outcome would be a technical tie, condemning the relations to remain in a state of pause. Morocco would not opt for an empty seat at the table, but on the other hand, Pedro Sánchez could seize this situation to take more resolute steps in relation to the southern neighbor, particularly by bringing the issue of immigration to the European agenda, leveraging the EU presidency.

As the Tangier-born New Yorker, Paul Bowles, once said: “In the Sahara, there is nothing”; but far from there, everything happens. This Sunday, the interest in the electoral outcome not only concerns Europe but also Africa. The uncertainty of the political future is a constant in this land of contrasts, where the Sahara remains an enigma that arouses passions and keeps the international community on edge. Happy anniversary, Tangier.


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