- Negotiations kick off between PP and Ciudadanos for C’s support to Rajoy on 30 August
- PSOE (once again) confirms opposition to Mariano Rajoy’s re-election
- Catalonia: Puigdemont and CUP to meet, with a referendum on the agenda
*Hover over bold terms to find out more!
Negotiations kick off between PP and Ciudadanos for C’s support to Rajoy on 30 August
PP and Ciudadanos signed an agreement today containing the latter’s six conditions to consider supporting Rajoy’s re-election. The seventh, unlisted condition (that PP scheduled a date for the confidence debate) was resolved yesterday, after the Chairwoman of the Parliament, Ana Pastor (PP), announced that it will take place on 30 August. The negotiations will start this afternoon at 16.00h CET.
The document, which doesn’t get into further detail on each individual condition, does include a deadline for the eventual government to kick off these measures. They must be put in place in the first three months after a PM is proclaimed.
PP‘s spokesman Rafael Hernando, has expressed his group’s interest in getting Ciudadanos involved in the government, but it’s initially expected that the two parties will only try to secure C’s 32 MPs’ support to Rajoy. He also said that the agenda of the talks will include points on economic policy, institutional reforms, education and social policy.
C’s spokesman, Juan Carlos Girauta, said he expected the negotiations to take around a week. Both Girauta and Hernando have put the pressure onto PSOE‘s leader, Pedro Sánchez, to change his group’s vote on Rajoy’s confidence debate from ‘No’ to an abstention.
Incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy has accepted the six conditions. This means that he will have to support a series of measures that will directly affect his party. These measures must allegedly be put in place in the first three months after Mariano Rajoy is re-elected, which anticipates Rajoy’s skill to stretch out time periods ad-infinitum:
- 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, including several that affect senior members and close collaborators of Rajoy. 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.
- 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). Senator Rita Barberá (mentioned above) is the most famous PP figure who is allegedly using her immunity to avoid being indicted, after her party’s Valencian branch collapsed and most of her allies are being investigated.
- New electoral law:
- 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.
- 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.
- Change in proportionality rules: Ciudadanos, 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.
- Halting 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 (now called PDC) and Unió.
- 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.
- 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. However, such an inquiry could have been started without PP‘s support, as the conservatives don’t have a majority that could block it.
The date of the confidence debate (which was a seventh unlisted condition) has a double explanation:
1. Putting more pressure on PSOE: The confidence debate is the event that sets the clock running towards a new round of election. If the candidate (Mariano Rajoy) doesn’t obtain enough support (explained below), the Parliament would be dissolved two months after the debate (on 31 October) and new elections would be called the day after (1 November). Following a series of rules and legal terms, the elections would end up taking place on 25 December. Christmas Day.
Even if PP and Ciudadanos reach an agreement (which seems extremely likely), and PP manages to obtain one extra vote from Coalición Canaria (which is also likely), Rajoy’s party would still be in need of six more supports or eleven abstentions to be proclaimed PM. Because his government has alienated all the right wing nationalist parties with his centralist and inflexible measures in the last four years, these are not expected to support him. Basque elections on 25 September and a confidence vote on Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on 28 September make this a completely unrealistic option (at least until the end of September).
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 the candidate fails again, there is a period of two months to try make it happen, after which, the king dissolves the Parliament and calls new elections.
A third round of elections is, at the moment, extremely unpopular in Spain, and PSOE would easily be portrayed by PP and Ciudadanos as the party responsible for the deadlock. Setting the vote on Christmas Day will make them even more unpopular, with people having to cancel their holidays to attend electoral duty. Abstention will probably soar, and PP usually benefits from that, as it has the most loyal voters.
2. Getting the National Budget approved before 15 October: The official reason for the vote date, argued by PP leaders such as Vice-PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, is that the National Budget Law must be approved before 15 October in order to comply with EU regulations. For this to happen, the government must present a draft to the Parliament on 30 September at the latest.
The problem comes because it’s unclear whether a temporary government can pass this law and other economic regulations, such as the expense ceiling. While PP says that the constitution clearly bans it, PSOE argues that this is not the case in cases of emergency or general interest, which is clearly the case.
In any case, if Rajoy manages to be elected PM before late September, he would have a better chance to go through with this requirement and avoid any eventual fine from Brussels (although it’s not clear whether sanctions would apply).
Now, on with the agreement, Rivera’s party say that the compromise is only to negotiate support for the confidence debate, and that the party won’t, in any case, be part of the government. PP, however, wants to have Ciudadanos in the cabinet, because that would allow a larger stability to approve unpopular laws and cuts. Without Ciudadanos on board, Rajoy would have to lead the government far from an absolute majority in the Parliament, and that would prove hard due to the several grudges he holds with other groups (including Podemos and the nationalists).
Ciudadanos knows that entering a government with Rajoy would be unpopular, and that they would stop being perceived as a “renovation” for the right wing in Spain. However, the party’s leader, Albert Rivera, is known for being at ease with changing his mind, so it’s not completely out of the question that Ciudadanos will be in the next Spanish government.
PSOE (once again) confirms opposition to Mariano Rajoy’s re-election
PSOE‘s leader Pedro Sánchez has said that his party will vote ‘No’ to Mariano Rajoy’s re-election as PM. Sánchez has made clear that the socialists will oppose both Rajoy’s second term and the National Budget, once this is presented. He hasn’t said whether he would be ready to present his nomination as an alternative, with the support of Podemos and the nationalist parties.
All pressure is on PSOE, which has the key to the government or to a third round of elections. Sánchez has repeatedly said that his 85 MPs will vote against Rajoy’s re-election, which would reinforce the deadlock. The other option would be obtaining the support of Podemos and several nationalist parties. He would need at the very least 14 votes from among: ERC (9 votes), PDC (8 votes), PNV (5 votes), EH Bildu (2 votes) and Coalición Canaria (1 vote)). To get there, he would necessarily have to make serious concessions to the Catalan parties, namely a binding referendum on independence.
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 three very bitter options: Support Rajoy, force elections on Christmas Day or allow an independence referendum in Catalonia. The three would be extremely unpopular.
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).
Catalonia: Puigdemont and CUP to meet, with a referendum on the agenda
Catalan PM Carles Puigdemont will meet representatives of CUP the last week of August, anti-austerity leader Anna Gabriel has confirmed. Puigdemont will try to secure CUP‘s support in the confidence vote that he will face on 28 September in the Catalan Parliament. Gabriel said that scheduling a referendum on independence would be an important step to gather that support
Carles Puigdemont leads Catalan government in minority. His party (PDC), in coalition with ERC and other pro-independence parties hold 62 seats (of a total 135). He’s governing with the support of CUP‘s 10 MPs. However, the apparent only common ground for these two groups is Catalan independence.
Puigdemont, who would prefer to wait a bit longer before such a measure is taken, is now pressured to accept it if he wants to stay in place. However, CUP is not expected to be completely inflexible, and there is a chance for agreement on other measures that could be considered steps towards unilateral independence.
There have been other attempts to celebrate unilateral referendums of independence in Catalonia, but they have always been banned by the Constitutional Court, and boycotted by the unionist population.