The Day in Spain #13

Politics

PP National Executive Board meeting NOW to approve C’s conditions

The People’s Party (right, conservative, centralist) is meeting to decide whether to approve Ciudadanos (right, liberal, centralist) conditions to start a negotiation over the latter’s vote direction on PM Mariano Rajoy’s confidence debate. The conservatives are widely expected to approve the C’s conditions, although it’s not clear whether Rajoy’s party will try to nuance them.

Also, PP is not expected to schedule the date of a confidence debate today. Although Rivera said this was necessary to negotiate, Rajoy will probably only set it after the former has accepted to negotiate and the two leaders meet.

Explained:

The six conditions PP is widely expected to approve was made public by Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera last week. The conditions were introduced as the key that would allow the liberal party to negotiate its support to incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy’s re-election. However, even in that case, Rajoy would still need PSOE’s abstention.

The PM is elected by the parliament in a two-round vote after a confidence debate. 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).

At the moment, Rajoy has secured 138 ‘Yes’ votes (137 from his own party and one from Coalición Canaria). He has also secured Ciudadanos abstention in the second round, so he would need to make sure that ‘No’ votes don’t amount to more than 137. Now, if he manages to change Ciudadanos abstention to a ‘Yes’ vote, he would be at 170 seats, and would put all the pressure onto PSOE.

PP is trying to play on PSOE’s (centre-left, social-democrat) internal divisions and the unpopularity of forcing a third round of elections.

About the date of the confidence debate: It’s important to understand that this date is important to set the clock running towards a third round of election. Mariano Rajoy has not guaranteed that he will stand for a confidence debate if he doesn’t have enough support beforehand, and in any case, he hasn’t officially scheduled a date, which was contested by opposition parties as inconstitutional.

The date of the confidence debate, as said above, is the trigger to kick off the electoral calendar. 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 warns PP: The conditions are not negotiable

Ciudadanos “number 2” Juan Manuel Villegas, has warned PP that Rajoy must accept all six conditions without any nuance. Otherwise, Villegas said, his party will have “nothing to negotiate” with the incumbent PM.

Some PP officers, such as the Vice-Secretary of Organisation Fernando Martínez-Maillo, said earlier in the week that “some of the conditions aren’t clear enough to respond yes or no”.

Explained:

PP, and its leader, Mariano Rajoy, are not known for their flexibility and ability for negotiation. The last four years, during which the conservatives have enjoyed an absolute majority, have featured endless unilateral decisions, which have been perceived by the rest of the parties, as well as regional administrations, as authoritarianism.

Now, the six conditions presented by Rivera are not at all difficult to accept by Rajoy, but his voters are not expected to take any humiliation easily. Rajoy will try to save face, particularly in some of the most spiky corruption-related conditions. Remember that one of the requirements is to open a parliamentary investigation of the Barcenas case (an ongoing corruption investigation, so called because it sprouted from the publication of the forged accounts of former PP treasurer Luis Barcenas), in which the party itself is indicted for destroying evidence and obstructing justice.

PSOE Permanent Committee to meet today to reinforce ‘No’ vote to Rajoy

PSOE’s (centre-left, social-democrat, federalist) leader, Pedro Sánchez, has summoned the Permanent Committee of his party to revalidate the socialists’ opposition to Rajoy’s re-election in a confidence debate. The Committee is formed by Sanchez’s close allies, and no surprises are expected to come from it.

Explained:

Although the political topic of the day is obviously the PP-Ciudadanos negotiation, which could be opened if Rajoy accepts Rivera’s six conditions, that would be for nothing if PSOE doesn’t abstain in Rajoy’s re-election. The socialists, PP’s traditional opposition, have the key to government in their hand, and pressure is mounting over its leader, Pedro Sánchez, from some of his party’s regional barons (PSOE has a federal structure).

The organ in charge of taking executive decisions in PSOE is the Federal Committee, which is not scheduled to meet soon. In its absence, the Permanent Committee takes the decisions. Sánchez knows that the Permanent Committee has a more homogeneous vote than the Federal one.

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).

PP, which needs PSOE’s vote to move from ‘No’, is using its majority and its talks with Ciudadanos to put pressure on the socialists. The conservatives hope that the unpopularity of a third round of elections will erode PSOE’s opposition, and abstain in a confidence debate rather than being conceived as the party responsible for the political deadlock.

Basque elections: Otegi formally nominated

EH Bildu (left, anti-austerity, Basque separatist) has officially proclaimed Arnaldo Otegi as its candidate to Lehendakari (Basque PM). The Electoral Board of Guipuzcoa will announce whether it accepts his candidature on the week of 23 August. If the Board doesn’t ban him, parties PP, Ciudadanos and UPyD (right, liberal, centralist) are expected to appeal against his nomination.

Meanwhile, PSOE’s Meritxell Batet, said that she believes that Otegi has a right to run for Lehendakari, even though she “doesn’t like it”. Right-wing parties PP, Ciudadanos and UPyD have already announced they will appeal against Otegi’s nomination if it’s accepted by the Board.

Explained:

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 accepted 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.

On the other hand, PP, C’s and UPyD’s voters would not accept that those parties didn’t appeal against Otegi’s nomination. These parties would probably benefit from showing no flexibility towards the matter.

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