The Day in Spain #12

Politics

Politics

Fátima Báñez replaces Alfonso Alonso as head of the Health Ministry

The Minister of Work and Social Security, Fátima Bañez, has been appointed as new head of the Health Ministry. She replaces Alfonso Alonso, who is running for Lehendakari (Basque PM) for Partido Popular (right, conservative, centralist). She retains her previous ministry and is not officially Minister of Health, but will take care of the daily issues at the helm of the department.

Explained:

The government can’t appoint new ministers while it’s on temporary status. That’s why existing cabinet members have to take over each other’s responsibilities when one leaves the government. Alfonso Alonso is the third minister that leaves his position since Rajoy dissolved the Parliament in October 2015. Before him, Rajoy accepted the resignation of the Minister of Industry, José Manuel Soria (who was involved in a tax dodging scheme) and the Minister of Public Works, Ana Pastor, who then became the Chairwoman of the Parliament.

Alonso was in the shortlist for replacing PM Mariano Rajoy in the unlikely case that the latter is forced to resign to form a new government. His departure means he’s not anymore.

Basque Elections: Basque attorney says that Otegi will probably not be allowed to run

The head attorney of the Basque Country, Juan Calparsoro, said today in an interview at the National Radio that he doesn’t believe that Arnaldo Otegi, EH Bildu’s (left, anti-austerity, Basque separatist) will be elegible to run for Lehendakari (Basque PM). He said that he agreed with the National Audience attorney, who said last week that there is a final judgment on the matter and that Otegi’s candidature will be suspended.

On the other hand, Arnaldo Otegi said that he will comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court on the matter, but has added that trying to suspend him from running is “cheating”.

Explained:

First, it’s important to understand that both the National Audience attorney and Basque Country attorney are part of the same office, and work together. It’s not strange, then, that they both have the same opinion. In any case, the Basque Country attorney’s opinion is valid as a professional one, but he takes no part on the process of accepting or rejecting Otegi’s nomination.

The process of nomination is as follows: The candidature lists (an ordered relation of all candidates of one particular party in one specific province) must be registered with the Electoral Board of each province. Arnaldo Otegi is running in the Guipuzcoa province. The deadline for registration is 22 August. The lists will be officially published along that week (23-29 August).

The Guipuzcoa Electoral Board can reject Otegi’s nomination. However, whatever its decision, it’s expected that the “losing” side will appeal against it. Finally, the decision will belong to the Constitutional Court, which must decide before 9 September, when the electoral campaign kicks off.

Arnaldo Otegi is a very divisive figure both in the Basque Country and the rest of Spain. Hailed by many as the main leaderhead of the Basque pro-independence movement, his past relationship with ETA makes him the target of outright hate from conservative sectors of society, which at the same time improves his image among left-wing voters. Otegi was freed in March 2016, after spending six years in prison for allegedly trying to rebuild the illegalised party Batasuna and “glorifying ETA” in a rally in San Sebastian in 2010. His imprisonment is seen by many as politically motivated.

One must understand that ETA’s terrorism is heavily instrumentalised in the Spanish political sphere, so the ability of Arnaldo Otegi to run for office goes beyond a legal issue. Insisting in his inability to run would increase polarization in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the Spanish establishment would be perceived as authoritarian. At the same time, his nomination is a way to polarize the campaign and attract the sympathy of left wing parties such as Podemos.

Political talk:

Miquel Iceta (PSC) hints to a chance of obtaining PSOE’s abstention if Rajoy is replaced

Miquel Iceta, leader of PSOE’s (centre-left, social-democrats, federalist) affiliate in Catalonia (PSC), said today that he “refuses to accept” PP’s thesis that it’s “either Rajoy or new elections”. Iceta has said that there are valid alternatives, such as PSOE’s leader Pedro Sánchez seeking the nationalist vote or having a different candidate, either from PP or independent.

He has clarified that these are technical opportunities that are not yet being discussed, but that shouldn’t be discarded nonetheless.

Explained:

Iceta knows perfectly well that it’s either Rajoy or elections. PP’s officers have repeatedly made extremely clear that there’s no chance of replacing Rajoy, and if there was any doubt about it, there’s the previous term (from December to June) to prove it. If Rajoy had stepped aside then, Ciudadanos would have supported the conservatives, and probably would have obtained abstentions from PNV (right, conservative, Basque nationalist), PSOE or even Catalan parties. Rajoy is going nowhere.

But Iceta is not talking in vain. His words are designed to take off pressure from PSOE’s leader, Pedro Sánchez, who is facing a very likely political storm if Ciudadanos, as expected, decides to support Rajoy’s re-election. If that happens, PSOE will be forced to decide whether Rajoy is re-elected or Spain goes back to the polls for a very unpopular third round of election. Whoever is perceived as responsible for the political blockade can expect to take a bit hit in the eventual elections.

By eliminating the dicotomy Rajoy-elections, Iceta helps Sánchez move some responsibility onto Rajoy’s camp, portraying the incumbent PM’s immobilism as the main cause of the blockade.

Ciudadanos urges PP to accept a deal ahead to tomorrow’s crucial meeting

Ciudadanos’ (right, liberal, centralist) MP Fernando de Paramo said today that the six conditions presented by his party to PP are “not negotiable” and “should have been accepted with eyes closed”. The conservative National Executive Board is meeting tomorrow to take a vote on Ciudadanos’ proposal. If PP accepts the conditions, formal negotiations will be open between the governing party and Ciudadanos to change the latter’s vote direction from abstention to support in Rajoy’s confidence debate.

Explained:

If there’s a politician in Spain that is impervious to pressure, that’s PM Mariano Rajoy. His party will most likely accept the conditions, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to negotiate them, particularly in what pertains to parliamentary immunity and electoral law.

The set of measures, in any case, is another element of pressure for PSOE, whose abstention in a Rajoy confidence debate is needed for the incumbent’s PM re-election.

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: allowing a Rajoy-led government or being perceived as responsible for the deadlock.

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.

Rabell says he feels alienated by the Catalan Diada rally

The president of CatalunyaSiQueEsPot (left, anti-austerity, federalist, pro-self determination) at the Parliament, Luis Rabell, said today that he won’t be attending the 11 September Diada march in Barcelona. The march, held yearly on Catalonia’s Day, is organised by pro-independence think tank ANC. He added that, instead of fighting for democratic and civil rights in Catalonia, the rally is a tool of one specific political option.

Explained:

Rabell’s group, one of Podemos’ regional partners is favourable to the celebration of a referendum on independence, but not necessarily in favour of independence. 11 September is the National Day of Catalonia, and huge rallies are held in Barcelona and all over the region in favour of independence. However, the event hasn’t been traditionally independentist, and Rabell is referring to a few years back, when the rally was a cultural rather than a political demonstration.

It’s important to understand that there are four different sensitivities in Catalonia towards independence:

  • Pro-independence: This is the largest group in Parliament, and comprises PDC (right, liberal), ERC (centre-left, social-democrat) and CUP (left, anti-austerity). PDC and ERC are members of a the governing coalition (JxSi), and have the external support of CUP for some policies.
  • Pro-referendum: While all the above are pro-referendum too, Catalunya Si Que Es Pot favours self-determination, but doesn’t necessarily support independence. They would be expected to campaign for a ‘Stay’ vote in a referendum campaign.
  • Centralist: PP, Ciudadanos and PSC (PSOE’s affiliate in the region) are opposed to any kind of referendum or independence process. PSC used to be in favour of a referendum, but changed sides to align with PSOE’s national guidelines.

 

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