Monday, October 06, 2014

We Can Collapse Governments

Two opinion polls were published at the weekend. They were opinion polls that would have wrecked any hopes that Mariano Rajoy or José Ramón Bauzá would have had for a nice, pleasant Sunday. The Partido Popular both nationally and in the Balearics are heading for the exits next year.

The poll by the Balearics Institute for Social Studies on behalf of "Ultima Hora" confirms previous recent surveys which suggest that in May next year the PP would lose eight seats in the Balearic parliament. Down to 27 from the current 35, it would lose its overall majority (30 seats are needed for a majority). Its percentage of the vote would slip by around 9% and though this would still make it the most voted-for party (37%), it would be unable to form a government without the support of other parties, and it would be most unlikely to attract sufficient support, if any.

A startling aspect of this poll is not so much the losses that the PP would suffer but those that PSOE would experience. The main opposition party, it stands to lose three seats (or two if one takes a Formentera coalition branch to be a shoo-in). The even more startling aspect is the party which would be taking seats from both of them - Podemos ("we can"). It might win as many as ten seats. Win not gain, because of course there was no Podemos at the last election.

It might have been possible to have dismissed Podemos's performance at the European elections earlier this year as a one-off kicking for the main parties. In which case that would have been to have underestimated Podemos. It has come from nowhere but it isn't about to suddenly disappear. It holds the key to the elections next year.

In the Balearics the opinion poll gives the PP little or no hope of finding coalition partners. El Pi, the party which emerged from the discredited and defunct Unió Mallorquina, might get one seat. The UPyD also might get one seat, but for it to ally with the PP, despite its centrist tendencies, would go against much of its reason for being, which was to challenge the two main parties.

And this, the challenge to the main parties, is one of the key reasons why Podemos came into existence. It is populist in a way that is far removed from the UPyD; about as far removed as its political agenda. But it, as with the UPyD, has to face the reality of what it has created. If it is to serve any purpose as a political organisation, it has to be prepared to work with the main parties, which almost certainly wouldn't mean the PP. Therefore, it only has one option - PSOE. If there were to be a coalition between PSOE and Podemos, it would be a coalition which would be expected to bring along the Més leftist grouping as well. Between them, they would just about scrape together a majority.

In terms of government, Podemos is a totally unknown quantity. As such, therefore, its very popularity brings with it an enormous amount of uncertainty. It is not used to the games of government; indeed, it is these very games that it rejects. What happens or might happen if it were to enter a coalition, in which it would get some top positions by virtue of its number of seats, but then discovers that it has disagreements?

There has to be a real danger that a coalition could be thrown into chaos or could collapse. We will discover over the next weeks and months just how much common ground Francina Armengol of PSOE can find with the Balearics wing of Podemos, assuming she can find any. But the attitude of Podemos and its supporters towards PSOE can be seen in the findings of the Metroscopia poll that was published in "El País". They are overwhelmingly negative with regard to PSOE's new national leader, Pedro Sánchez.

And if there might be chaos in the Balearics, what about nationally? The decline in support for the PP has crumbled, according to the Metroscopia poll. PSOE's support is about the same as it was in 2011. Podemos, on the other hand, has a level of support not far behind that of the PP. This is not a poll which estimates how the vote might go nationally but it is a survey which indicates where sentiment lies, and it is sentiment which could yet create as uncertain a pattern in national government as it could in the Balearics.

Rajoy, with some better news about the economy and with the promise of tax-giveaways, has more time than Bauzá in the Balearics to potentially turn things around. Bauzá has nothing to give away, only himself. The Balearics PP might conceivably hold on next spring, if and only if there was a different leader.

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