Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Andalusia's Gambit: Investiture Or Not

Andalusia. A region apart but a region very much a part. Where would Spain have been without Andalusia? Arguments can rage about the origins of flamenco - and they do - but it is Andalusia which takes the honour. The vibrancy of the dance and music helped to make Spain. In the eyes of the world, it was Andalusia which captured the essence of the new tourism. The Costa del Sol, curiously enough, wasn't a focus for the first wave, but Andalusia had exported its vivaciousness, its difference, and it changed Spain forever.

Andalusia may be on the point of changing Spain again. Or is it that it will put it back together? The most that Andalusia might do is reshape Spain's politics. That mould has already been undergoing manipulation, being twisted and distorted by new hands ready to render the old hands redundant. There is further manufacture afoot or in hand. This is breaking the mould of PSOE. Or is it that the mould returns to its original factory settings, not those of times long ago but of times more recent.  These were contented times before the new hands started making light work of the outmoded shape PSOE had contorted itself into in peculiar antagonistic alliance with the Partido Popular.

This coming Sunday may well prove to be a defining moment. PSOE's federal committee will meet. It has a choice. It can agree to facilitate the investiture of Mariano Rajoy as prime minister or it can say no to Rajoy. Which way will it go? Andalusia will be all important in the decision.

Andalusia is apart because it is the only region in Spain to have been socialist since democratic regional governments were established. Here is one aspect of its difference, a seemingly curious one, for this is a region of great culture and great cities, apparently overwhelmed by richness to match the richness of that culture. Yet it is comparatively poor. Where would Andalusia be without Spain? It does well from the regional financing system. Very well.

It has a legacy. This is the region where liberalism was born, where the Cadiz Constitution envisaged a new Spain, a more egalitarian Spain, where the fight against Bonaparte was fostered, and where there was the consequent fight against the treacherous Ferdinand VII, who destroyed that movement and condemned Spain to decades of self-destruction. The omens may not sound good.

The new liberalism is one cloaked with conservatism. Andalusia, the nation's power base for PSOE, will decide. The broker of the power is its president, Susana Díaz. Her number two, Juan Cornejo, might just have uttered a statement that will pass into common use as an aphorism. "To govern is as important as leading an opposition." It can be taken to have a double meaning, but the intent is clear. The task of governing will fall to Mariano Rajoy. The opposition, the PSOE opposition, will be empowered by this. It can facilitate investiture, but it holds the power to influence policy. It hopes. Unless it falls apart, shattered by a region apart.

Díaz and Andalusia are determined that their vision and version of PSOE continues. It is the conservative version, the cosily close to the PP version, one in the name of the nation that it (Andalusia) did so much to bring to the world's attention. The nation is important to Andalusia. Apart but a part, it needs the unity of the nation, not least the greater riches in relative terms that exist elsewhere: Catalonia, the Balearics, for instance.

PSOE in Catalonia, via its first secretary Miquel Iceta, has said that a third election would be preferable to Rajoy. He doesn't, though, see that facilitating Rajoy's investiture will rupture the party and force it apart. The Balearics' Francina Armengol, trapped by the government of her making, thinks otherwise: possibly, or even probably. Tensions could erupt into revolution on Sunday.

Andalusia and its compatriots elsewhere, such as the "managing" leader Javier Fernández of Asturias, have a cunning plan. They will allow the investiture, but it will be support-lite. Eleven deputies in Congress will be put up as the sacrificial lambs. Rajoy would therefore stagger over the finishing-line, ten months after the race started. Who could have ever thought that they might hatch such a plan? Far be it from me, but it was me. I suggested several weeks ago that Pedro Sánchez could have done just that.

But whichever way Sánchez had chosen - and it now seems as if he backed the loser - it was wrong. Or right. He was caught in the vice of his party's enfeeblement. Andalusia, if it indeed plays its eleven-hand gambit, will trust that this will be reversed by the empowerment of highly scrutinising opposition. It will trust and it will hope, but might the consequence be that there is more which is apart? PSOE itself, and never forget Catalonia.

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