Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Humiliation Delayed: Més takes third spot

It was David Abril, co-chief spokesperson of Més, who had spoken of an "humiliating" agreement. Podemos had been the target of his annoyance. The offer of an electoral pact for the general election was going to place a Més candidate fourth on the list of candidates for Congress. Under this, there was little or no chance that it would get its wish and be able to send one of its own to Madrid. Podemos would have had the top three places, grateful to the additional vote from Més supporters which would have guaranteed Podemos one more seat than it gained at the December election. Més thought the deal sucked.

A pact of the hard left had therefore appeared to be dead in the water. But something happened. Més will now have the third place (for the first two years of the legislature and then give way to Podemos). A combined vote with Podemos and the other signatories to this pact, the United Left, will be sufficient to guarantee this unless there is a collapse of the vote.

So what did happen to bring about the Units Podem Més pact? One suggestion is that Alberto Jarabo and Laura Camargo, the main voices of Podemos in the Balearics, had been attempting to persuade supporters to agree to the proposal for Més to have the third place. The implication is that those supporters were against the proposal. But how accurate is this suggestion? Jarabo, for instance, had said that without Podemos Més wouldn't have any presence in Congress, even if this were only indirectly as a partner in a pact. Nothing that was heard from Jarabo had hinted at acceding to Més demands.

More accurate were an approach by David Abril direct to Podemos high command and the intervention of Iñigo Errejón, the Podemos number two after Pablo Iglesias. Errejón is increasingly being cast as a sort of Mister Reasonable of Podemos but he is also one of the party's high chiefs for strategy. He would have known that without Més there would be no third place, as Podemos would not get sufficient votes for this third place: the votes of the United Left are inconsequential.

On top of this was the formal pact entered into at national level between Podemos and the United Left. A strengthened pact in the Balearics, meaning the addition of Més, would give that national arrangement further clout. So, the Podemos national command saw the virtual necessity of accommodating Més. And in bringing Més into the fold, Podemos is able to pile further pressure on PSOE's candidate for prime minister, Pedro Sánchez.

All the talk from Podemos and Més is about attacking Mariano Rajoy and the PP and about removing them from government. But which is the party really under attack? It isn't the PP. It's PSOE. The combined Units Podem Més should gain sufficient electoral support to relegate PSOE to one deputy in Congress, while it is most unlikely to get sufficient support to capture four deputies and so reduce the PP to two from the current three.

Apart from the potential consequences that this will have for the Balearic government and its lame duck president, Francina Armengol, there is the much bigger consequence for national government. Errejón, adopting his Mister Reasonable hat, has said that the problems Sánchez faced in arriving at an accord which could have seen him having received support for his investiture as prime minister were underestimated. By this, Errejón is saying that Sánchez was being stifled by elements within PSOE from having agreed to the "government of change" with Podemos.

On the one hand, therefore, Errejón is seeking to appeal to Sánchez by intimating that he understands his problems but also by implying that he (Sánchez) needs to be bolder: to abandon any agreement with Ciudadanos and climb aboard the left-wing government of change. He has reinforced this message by insisting that during the failed investiture attempt by Sánchez, Podemos would have been "loyal partners" for PSOE, had Sánchez been allowed to take the Podemos route.

On the other hand, though, Errejón and Podemos are piling the pressure on Sánchez, and the arrangement with Més is an example of this. It is an arrangement for strategic purposes pure and simple.

Més may have avoided an "humiliating" agreement but they are naïve if they believe they are anything more important than a convenience for Podemos. They will obtain a seat in the Congress on the back of what was a disappointing performance at the December election. And who's to say they and their partners will actually do better this time? Will the supporters of the three parties in this pact give it wholehearted support at the election? And might the PP find its fortunes reviving at the election? Possibly, but the loss of Mateo Isern and the consequent squabbling won't help the Balearic PP. And Errejón would have known that too. 

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