Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Podemos At The Government Crossroads

Will they or won't they? Alberto Jarabo, for now still the leader (general secretary) of Podemos in the Balearics, says that the party will enter the Balearic government this autumn. He says this, or so it would appear, on the authority of the national organisation, and Pablo Iglesias in particular.

Something of a game-changer has occurred in Castile-La Mancha. The PSOE president of that region - Emiliano García-Page - has been unable to get the budget approved. In order to do so, Podemos are entering the government. In the Balearics, Podemos have already started to set out demands for the 2018 budget, most obviously their call for a doubling of the rate of the tourist tax. If this cannot be agreed, it has been stated, they will not approve the budget. A similar situation to Castile-La Mancha could therefore obtain.

Podemos, once upon a time, had a policy of not joining administrations led by PSOE. The socialist party was as much of a target for Podemos as the Partido Popular was. PSOE was part of the reviled "casta", a corrupt two-party-dominated system. It was also a party from which Podemos could take their electoral pickings more easily. Being ostensibly left-wing, it represented a more direct target than the PP. Already shaky, PSOE suffered at the elections: a reflection of its inherent weakness, the enduring product of the socialist government's handling of the crisis, and of the arrival of a different type of political grouping, i.e. Podemos.

There was never total consistency in this Podemos policy. They became part of the Council of Mallorca's administration in 2015, just as they did at Palma town hall and in other municipalities. Governments - regional and national - were a different matter. However, this inconsistency has enabled Podemos to cut their teeth in lesser administrations and to get the electorate used to their presence. By not being in government per se, they have sought to appeal to the electorate as the body which holds PSOE (and Més) to account while at the same time acting as a sort of shadow element of government. This off-stage influence of the government is one reason why some in PSOE have bridled at what they see as Podemos's undisguised "moral superiority".

Within Podemos ranks, there is still disagreement about joining governmental forces with PSOE. The far-left anti-capitalist faction has opposed the development in Castile-La Mancha. Laura Camargo, who is the likely successor to Jarabo, is part of this faction; Jarabo is not and nor is Pablo Iglesias. Jarabo says that the possibility of Podemos entering the government is not one that he has conjured up; it is the national organisation which has raised the possibility and that the Podemos citizens' council in the Balearics would have the final say. Perhaps so, but if Camargo does become general secretary, the possibility - one would assume - would disappear. No firm decision will be made until the election of Jarabo's successor. Jarabo doesn't really want Camargo to follow him.

In an interview at the weekend, Francina Armengol made clear that she has no interest in there being a remodelling of the government to facilitate Podemos. In 2015, Podemos decided not enter the government because they didn't trust PSOE. Armengol believes that there is greater trust now, but she remains committed to how things are. The problem would arise, however, if the budget for 2018 couldn't be approved. Armengol insists that the situation is different in the Balearics. Budgets and important laws have been approved and passed. They may well have been, but this doesn't mean to say that they will be in the future. She also faces the ongoing matter of the Més contracts, and the possibility of Biel Barceló being cited by a judge. Camargo has said that Barceló's continuation as vice-president and tourism minister is reason alone for not entering the government. Were he forced to resign, though, this particular situation would change.

For Podemos, the ambition is to govern. The dash to power in 2015, although impressive, was not as strong as Podemos might have hoped. They didn't achieve a "Macron" and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they ever will. As it is, they may well have plateaued; forced, just like PSOE, to join alliances. Neither of the two principal issues which brought them to the fore - fighting corruption and austerity - has gone away. But they haven't managed the real breakthrough they might have wished. Ciudadanos, with the same issues but from a different political perspective, appear to be going backwards. The same might happen to Podemos. Without genuine, direct involvement in government, the electorate might just tire of them and of their influence of policies without responsibilities for them.

If Podemos seriously want to be part of the Balearic government, it might be now or never.

No comments: