The Day in Spain #9

Politics

Politics

Rajoy welcomes Rivera’s six conditions; PP’s executive board will now decide

Incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy (PP, right, conservative) said today that Albert Rivera’s six conditions to negotiate his re-election are “a good second step”, after his meeting with the leader of Ciudadanos (center-right, liberal).

PP’s National Executive Board will now study the document and vote on it. If the Board accepts the conditions, negotiations will begin between between PP and Ciudadanos to change the direction of the latter’s vote in Rajoy’s confidence debate from an abstention to a ‘Yes’ vote.

The meeting of the Board will take place on 17 August, and an exact date for the confidence debate would be announced after it, if PP finally accepts Ciudadanos’ proposal.

Explained:

Don’t be fooled. This is nothing like a final step for Rajoy’s re-election. The incumbent PM still needs the support of PSOE (centre-left, social democratic) to form a government. This is really an instrument to place pressure over the socialists.

The PM is elected by the parliament in a two-round vote. In the first round, the candidate nominated by the King (in this case, Mariano Rajoy), needs an absolute majority of votes (that is, 176 seats). If he fails, a second round takes place 48 hours later, and that time, the candidate only needs a simple majority (more ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ votes).

If Ciudadanos’ 32 seats support Rajoy, he would have 170 ‘Yes’ votes. It’s a close call, but still not enough for the incumbent president. He still needs to secure either PSOE’s or PDC’s (right, liberal, Catalan separatist) abstention. The latter, which was already unlikely, would be impossible if Ciudadanos is in the mix, as the two parties (Ciudadanos and PDC) are bitter enemies in Catalonia and Madrid. Ciudadanos is a party articulated around a fierce opposition to Catalonia’s independence, while PDC is the opposite. No dice there, so it’s all up to PSOE. Read more about the socialists’ position below.

The other important part of this news is the fact that, if PP accepts Rivera’s conditions, a date should be formally scheduled for the confidence debate before the two parties start the negotiations. That date could be announced next week, after PP’s National Executive Board meets on Wednesday. Rajoy has dodged the question of whether he would accept submitting his candidature to the Parliament without PSOE’s support, but it’s expected that a date will be fixed nonetheless.

The date of the confidence debate is important, because it sets the clock running to new elections. The king can only dissolve the parliament two months after the candidate running for prime minister fails in a confidence vote. The elections then take place some 50 days after the parliament has been dissolved.

Ciudadanos’ six conditions to Rajoy

Yesterday, Ciudadanos’ leader, Albert Rivera, announced a set of six conditions to be considered by PP, as a requisite to kick off negotiations towards Ciudadanos support in Rajoy’s confidence debate. Rivera and Rajoy have met today, and the latter has welcomed the gesture. PP’s National Executive Board will now vote whether to accept these conditions.

The six conditions are the following:

  1. Immediate dismissal of any political officer indicted in a case of corruption
  2. End of parliamentary immunity
  3. New electoral law that includes the following:
    1. Open lists (so voters can choose people, not just parties)
    2. Reform of the vote of expats (to make it easier for Spaniards abroad to vote)
    3. Change in proportionality rules
  4. No more administrative pardons of persons condemned for corruption
  5. Limit of two terms or eight years per PM (currently unlimited)
  6. Creation of a Parliamentary commission to investigate the Barcenas case (which affects PP’s organic structure).

There’s one extra condition, which is the formal scheduling of a date for Rajoy’s confidence debate.

Explained:

The main theme of the conditions is corruption. At the moment, corruption is rampant in the country, particularly among PP’s ranks, so conditions 1, 2, 4, 6 and, to a lesser extent, 5, could be seen as a clear stance against corruption.

Of all those, only conditions 1 and 4 depend on PP. The rest depend either on constitutional reforms (2) or parliamentary majority (6), which could be attained without PP’s support, through the support of opposition parties. Condition 3 can also be attained through a majority in the Parliament.

But let’s go one by one:

  1. Immediate dismissal of any political officer indicted in a case of corruption. This condition is the most relevant, as PP is hounded by hundreds of corruption cases. If this condition is to be fully accomplished, historical PP members such as Rita Barberà (current senator and former mayor of Valencia) and Rodrigo Rato (former Finance Minister in Aznar’s government) would have to be dismissed.
  2. End of parliamentary immunity. In Spain, members of the government, MPs, Senators, regional MPs and other political figures can’t be indicted by regular court, only by the Supreme Court. This means that as soon as a regular court investigating a case finds out one of these people is involved, the court must stop the investigation and send the proceedings to the Supreme Court. This makes the cases much more difficult to build and causes self-censorship in regular courts (that don’t want to lose the case).
  3. New electoral law:
    1. Open lists: At the moment, electoral committees only accept “closed” lists, which means that voters can only choose a party, giving that organisation the whole power of decision over who the MPs will be. Open lists would allow citizens to choose their preferred MPs, causing internal competition in the parties and ending ideological monoliths.
    2. Reform of the expat vote: Only 7% of Spaniards abroad have voted in the last elections, and that’s because the bureaucracy behind voting outside of the country is daunting. The system doesn’t “expect” citizens to live abroad, so, in order to vote, they have to “beg” (that’s the actual word) for a vote. The process is kafkian, and ineffective, particularly in African and Asian countries.
    3. Change in proportionality rules: Ciudadanos, as well as Podemos (left, anti-austerity), has been damaged by the current electoral law, which favours voters in rural areas. The system was devised to give UCD (post-francoist, right wing party) an edge over left-wing options. Today, it favours mostly PP, and to a lesser extent, PSOE.
  4. No more administrative pardons of persons condemned for corruption: Returning to the corruption theme, the government has the ability to pardon condemned persons. While this is common in many countries, the Spanish administration has pardoned seven politicians condemned for corruption-related crimes since 2011. They belonged to PP and Catalan parties CDC and Unió.
  5. Limit of two terms or eight years per PM: In Spain, there is currently no limit of the times a PM can run for re-election. Aznar and Zapatero only ran twice, but Felipe González (PSOE) was elected four times. This condition doesn’t respond to a particular demand from the population and it’s not a basic concern of the Spanish citizenry.
  6. Creation of a Parliamentary commission to investigate the Barcenas case (which affects PP’s organic structure): The Barcenas case is an ongoing corruption investigation, so called because it sprouted from the publication of the forged accounts of former PP treasurer (Luis Barcenas). The People’s Party itself is indicted, charged with obstructing justice and destroying evidence.

PSOE holds on: It’s still a ‘No’ vote for Rajoy

PSOE’s spokesman in Parliament, Óscar López, said that PSOE leadership will stick to a ‘No’ vote in Rajoy’s confidence debate. The socialists don’t plan to summon the Federal Committee to take a decision, assuming the decision is already taken. Their 85 seats in Parliament hold the key to governability, assume that the pressure will now mount on leader Pedro Sánchez, but still refrain from allowing a second Rajoy-led term.

Explained:

PSOE is in a very uncomfortable position here. While the socialists saved a match ball in the elections, when they obtained better results than Podemos, the party is now presented with two very bitter options.

The first one would be allowing a Rajoy-led government to be formed with Ciudadanos support. The abstention of the 85 socialist MPs would lead to this scenario. However, letting Rajoy govern, even by just abstaining, would be very difficult to explain to voters who could then be lured to Podemos.

The second  option would be to vote against Rajoy’s re-election, which would lead the country to a third round of election. PSOE would then be perceived as the party responsible for what is a very unpopular outcome.

A third way out, although unlikely, would be a PSOE-led government with the support of Podemos and at least some of the Basque and Catalan nationalists. This would be even more unpopular with the majority of PSOE’s voters.

It’s important to understand that PSOE has a double nature. While most of its voters in large cities are progressive, its rural base is conservative in many issues, and particularly sensitive to anything related to increased autonomy for Catalonia or ETA inmates. This division can be largely appreciated in the different discourses held by the Socialist PMs in Andalusia (Susana Díaz, conservative) and Valencia (Ximo Puig, progressive).

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Day in Spain #9

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