Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Never-Ending Election

The people of Spain will go to the polls again on 26 June. This date hadn't just been written in the stars. It had been written in the press right from the time that Mariano Rajoy told David Cameron there would be an election three days after the referendum. It had in fact been written as long ago as 20 December. When the results of the general election became known, there was already momentum gathering towards a second election: a momentum born out of the singular inability of the political parties to generate their own momentum towards creating accords of sufficient viability to form a government.

Spain is in uncharted territory, cast adrift in a sea of confusion and disruption. It is proving impossible to reconcile the ambitions and achievements of the two usurpers of political power - Podemos and Ciudadanos - with the baggage and histories of PSOE and the Partido Popular. It is further impossible to reconcile the competing ideologies of these two usurpers. Like unexpected challengers for a Premier League title, they battle it out to see which one emerges the stronger and assumes the crown of victors over the old guard. They both play pressing games at high tempo, pressing their claims with a constant barrage of new political thought but doing so according to competing systems. Podemos is all-out attack on institutions and the wealth of the old guard; Ciudadanos is defensive, minded to not let loose either the institutions of state (such as national unity with Catalonia) or the wealth of the capitalist state.

Where does Spain go from here? Quite possibly to a further election. The June election, if the opinion polls prove accurate, will supply only slight shifts from the pre-Christmas election. The PP might gain a little, Podemos might gain, the C's might push forward. PSOE may well stay where they were or drop back, the dominant alternative to the PP but without dominance: lame and torn between the past and the future. Pedro Sánchez, for all his words, would still rather he didn't need to sit with Podemos around a government table. He blames both Pablo Iglesias and Mariano Rajoy for the impasse. In truth, they are all to blame: ideologies cannot be reconciled. Yet there is the prospect of Podemos and the United Left forming a pact that might result in it being the premier force of the left above PSOE. But let it not be overlooked that there are tensions within Podemos that could undermine such a pact.

Come 26 June and the time to decide, and the outcome will provide a sense of déjà vu. There will be meetings, negotiations, offers and counter-offers, just as there have been since Sánchez failed - to no one's surprise - to garner sufficient support for his investiture in March. But to what end? For Sánchez to accede to Podemos demands would be a capitulation. He has so wedded himself to the pact with Albert Rivera and the C's that making room for Iglesias is pretty much an inherent impossibility. He cannot turn to Rajoy. An accord with the PP would likewise represent a capitulation. His humiliation would be complete. If he remains.

So predictable has the June election become that parties have already been in discussions as to how they will present themselves. The left in the Balearics is edging towards a pact that might see Podemos allying itself with Més and the United and Republican Left. The PP has "ordered" the regional leadership (temporary) to maintain the list of candidates it had in December. Mateo Isern will be number one again, and he will once more end up as a Congress deputy.

Meanwhile, the uncertainties and the inability of Sánchez to arrive at an agreement with Iglesias - a last-minute proposal from the Valencia left-wing Compromis party was met with the sound of the Podemos door being slammed - are causing deep concerns in Palma. President Armengol has been insisting that her government, with Podemos the onlooking determiners of policy, is stable. It now looks less so.

Moreover, if there were still to be no new government of the left after 26 June, then the Balearics would find itself further out on a limb, unable to press for changes that had been hoped for. One of the principal reasons why Biel Barceló and Més finally accepted a pact with Armengol was an understanding on financing from national government, one that Sánchez would deliver. He is no nearer being able to guarantee this than he was on 20 December.

Though the regional government was obviously formed on the basis of the regional and not the national election, a strong, combined showing by Més and Podemos on 26 June would weaken Armengol. Her position may become untenable.

Stability, for all that it is trumpeted, has been lost. Whatever happens on 26 June, the instability will be greater. Uncharted territory indeed.


Son Fe Mick said...

A damp morning to you Andrew
Who would have thought the UK and Spain could get themselves into such a pickle.
The voters in both countries have it in there power to remedy the situations.
Vote to stay in for the UK and be written by you Andrew?.. for Spain!
Weather is good for the vines

andrew said...

Glad to hear the vines are progressing well in this sudden burst of winter weather, Mick.

Perhaps a remedy for Spain would be to return to a dictatorship. But don't for God's sake let us start giving them any ideas along those lines.