••• The International Writers Magazine:From our Spanish Correspondent
Playing Statues in Spain
Despite the horrors of the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels and a brief response of condolences by all parties, Spain continues immersed in its own political mayhem trying to sort out a new government after the debacle of elections in December of last year.
Not even the dramatic and painful attack in Lahore, Pakistan was reported in the media as headline news. Sure, there were all kinds of articles, photos and comments, but the constant highlight was always focused on the main question mark of who or whom will run the country for the next four years. Last month’s essay highlighted the leaders of the political parties that had gained parliamentary seats as they continued to meet, discuss and try to form alliances to present the formation of a government to the Head of State, King Felipe VI. We’re into the 3rd month. The answer is still in the air.
So what’s up?
One journalist compared the leaders of the political parties that are involved, and there are dozens, as sorting out a jigsaw puzzle. Each looks at a piece as a member of a rival or friendly party to complete the picture. Another said that it was like the game of musical chairs, all running around until the music stopped. Those left at the end were the winners. A third, and recent cartoonist brought forward the old children’s game of statues. Politicians following and trying to ‘catch a curator’ leading the pack. If the curator stopped, everyone froze. But enough of the comical side of a serious political scenario that is still to unfold. The uncertainties remain. In order to continue, a recap, according to the Constitution of what has taken place is necessary.
On the 13th of January, the General Assembly (GA) as well as the Senate was formed with the election of a president. No problem as the Conservatives (PP) won the majority of seats. The King was then approached by all heads of parties to present proposals for the formation of a government. Then, a series of consultations took place. Two weeks later, the King summoned the President of the GA who handed him the name of the candidate for President. The Socialists (PSOE) presented Sr. Pedro Sanchez as candidate. Voting at the GA followed. All this was fine and dandy. Trouble was that during the voting session there was no majority. End of round one. As per the Constitution, the candidate now had up until the end of May to try once again to come up with the right number of parliamentary seats to allow him to be voted in as President; hence the merry-go-round continued in trying to reach an agreement with the plethora of parties that were yearning to form part of the government. The numbers game, to reach a majority of parliamentary seats had begun.
Herewith lies the problem. So what’s happened since?
Sr. Pedro Sanchez (PSOE) signed a pact with Sr. Albert Rivera, President of the center-whichever-way party (Ciudadans) that went nowhere. However, with 131 seats he managed to supersede the conservatives (PP) who were voted in at 127. His next step was to open a dialogue with Sr. Pablo Iglesias, the President of the Marxist party (Podemos). Sr. Iglesias has lowered his original demands of being granted the Vice-Presidency as well as several ministries for his executive group but warned that Sr. Sanchez would have to scrap his agreement with Sr. Rivera. The result of all these meetings was obvious. Sr. Rivera stated he would have no part of this new agreement. Instead, he insisted on a ‘State Pact’, and herewith lies the difference in government between what Sr. Rivera calls the parties of the Constitution, Socialists (PSOE), Conservatives (PP) and Ciudadans and the deal the Socialists want with Podemos. The overall head count would suffice to form a coalition government. On the other hand a coalition of the ‘Left Wing’ according to Sr. Rivera was a nonstarter because candidates from the separatist groups in Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia would have to be included and his party was opposed to the breakup of Spain.
Meanwhile, the conservative (PP) leader Sr. Mariano Rajoy continues as ‘acting’ president to run the country in a sort of maintenance mode. He has offered to open a dialogue with Sr. Sanchez (PSOE) including the formation of a coalition as per Sr. Rivera’s suggestion. There is no answer from Sr. Sanchez.
It all sounds very confusing to the outside world and the possibility of reaching any type of agreement is still far from clear. The tragedy is that if no government is formed Spain would have to call for a new General Election around the end of May, beginning of June. More delays mean more confusion including financial issues thus less faith in possible future investment in the country.
Journalist Vicente Campelo had this to say about the situation:
‘If a losers’ agreement is reached (hinting at socialists and a plethora of left wingers) and a new Popular Front government is formed (1936) political instability will reign in Spain. Thus, the large changes that the country needs will not be carried out by Marxists, separatists, anti-systems or whatever and would be one of the most radical parliaments that exists in Europe. This is worrying Brussels; especially with the expansion of public expenditure, an uncontrolled debt added to the bizarre ideas of some members of parliament who should never have been voted in in the first place.’ Strong words.
There is a great deal more of other worrying political activities going on that hint at future disorder, especially where town councils, including Madrid and Barcelona, and certain autonomous regions that are governed by a coalition of parties as those mentioned by Sr. Campelo. Suffice to say, that the outside world, especially financial institutions such as the ‘rating agencies’ like Moody’s are already beginning to take note of what may lie ahead if Spain does not get its act together and begin to tackle the real issues that are directly concerned with the labor market, the creation of jobs and the reduction of the ever rising unemployment rate, i.e. the backbone of the economy of most nations.
Will update during month as the situation unfolds. Anything could happen!
© James G. Skinner. April 1st 2016.
A Nasty Declaration
James Skinner on the electoral plight of Spain
However often you punch out the numbers, the sums just don’t add up - Sr Rajoy predicts new elections in June as there is no way that the mess, as it is at the moment will be sorted out.
James Skinner is the author of several novels on Spanish and South American politics
The Galician Parallax by James G Skinner
Published by Troubador