The Day in Spain #17

Politics

Politics

Rajoy will wait until the talks with Ciudadanos are advanced before calling PSOE

The incumbent PM Mariano Rajoy won’t contact PSOE‘s leader Pedro Sánchez until the negotiation between PP and Ciudadanos are advanced. Sánchez, on the other hand, said that he won’t meet Rajoy unless the latter produces a government programme to be discussed. The conservatives expect to reach a deal with Ciudadanos by the end of the week, although there’s no official deadline but the confidence debate (on 30 August).

Explained:

Mariano Rajoy wants to make sure that he has the support of Ciudadanos‘ 32 MPs before he calls Sánchez. He knows he can’t possibly change PSOE‘s vote at the first try, but he’s an expert at choosing the right timing to damage his political opponents, and knows that he can then put a lot more pressure on Sánchez.

Remember that Ciudadanos and PP are negotiating to ensure the support of the former’s 32 MPs to Rajoy’s re-election. Even with those 32 votes (and Coalición Canaria‘s single vote, which seems to be about to announce support to the incumbent PM), 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.

Political talk: PSOE won’t change “No” vote after confidence debate

Several PSOE leaders have said that the Socialists will vote against Mariano Rajoy‘s re-election at the confidence debate next week. María González Veracruz, Secretary of Science and Participation of the socialists, critiziced the conservatives attempt to put the responsibility for the deadlock on PSOE, asking Rajoy to look for support among right wing groups such as PNV and PDC.

MP Rafael Simancas dodged the question about the possibility of an alternative government with the support of Podemos and the nationalists, and said that it’s legally possible that the King opens a new round of consultations if Rajoy fails to be elected as Prime Minister next week.

Explained:

This is becoming a recurring piece of news. There isn’t a day without a PSOE representative coming out to say that they won’t reconsider changing their vote. This is, obviously, because journalists ask them daily, but still, food for thought.

After it has become apparent that PSOE won’t bulge after Rajoy’s confidence debate, the new date in the socialist’s calendar is 25 September. Once the elections in Galicia and Basque Country have passed, some of the regional leaders (PSOE has a federal structure) may reconsider their vote.

PSOE is under heavy pressure from Ciudadanos and PP to change their vote in Rajoy’s confidence debate to an abstention. This is necessary to break the deadlock and avoid a third round of elections (which would take place on Christmas Day!). The deadlock is extremely unpopular at the moment, and PP and Ciudadanos are portraying PSOE as the culprit.

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.

PSOE argues that PP and Ciudadanos have other options, such as getting the support of right wing nationalist parties such as PNV (5 seats) and PDC (8 seats). However, the proximity of the Basque elections (on 25 September) and the Catalan independence process make these options practically impossible. Left wing parties such as Podemos, ERC or EH Bildu are completely out of the question and haven’t even invited to preliminary talks.

Now, PSOE is also being pressured by Podemos to explore an alternative, progressive government, which PSOE denies as well. The first step to reach this scenario would be the King calling a new round of consultations with the leaders of all the parties represented at the Parliament. If after meeting the political leaders the King finds that Sánchez has a better chance than Rajoy, he can then proclaim the socialist as a candidate. This is a protocolary role, and the king can’t refuse to proclaim him if he’s willing to run and he has a real chance. Which he has not, at least at the moment.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez wouldn’t have enough with the support of Podemos 71 MPs, and would need to secure support from the Catalan nationalists PDC (8 seats) and ERC (9 seats). The prize for that is one and only one: a binding referendum on Catalan independence, and that is a prize PSOE can’t assume.

Another option would be to try to bring together Ciudadanos and Podemos, repeating the move from the last term. The two parties have mutually vetoed each other, so the deal wouldn’t work, but PSOE could then try and charge them with the responsibility of a third round of elections.

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: Barcelona mayor under fire for attending Diada rally

The mayor of Barcelona, anti-austerity Ada Colau, said that she’s willing to attend the Diada rally on September 11. The event commemorates the siege of Barcelona by Spanish troops in 1714, and it’s the official National Day of Catalonia. The rally has become, in the last few years, a symbol of pro-independence movements, with massive demonstrations held in Barcelona and all over the region.

The announcement has drawn criticism unto Colau. Joan Coscubiela, leader of Colau’s allies at city hall ICV, said that the rally represents a clearly unilateral option, which most of the mayor’s voters “don’t agree with”. Opposition leaders Carina Mejías (Ciudadanos) and Alberto Fernández (PP) said that Colau should represent all Barcelonans and refrain from attending a demonstration that is alligned with a particular political option.

Explained:

To understand this piece of news you have to understand, first, the deep division between pro-independence and anti-independence groups of opinion in Catalonia. In the last few years, the political debate has focused deeply on this divide, with three groups:

  • Pro-independence: 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. They are stronger in rural Catalonia.
  • Pro-referendum: While all the above are pro-referendum too, Podemos‘ incarnations (CatalunyaSiQueEsPot in the Parliament, Barcelona en Comú in Barcelona and En Comú Podem at the general elections) favour self-determination, but don’t necessarily support independence. They would be expected to campaign for a ‘Stay’ vote in a referendum campaign. They are generally strong in Barcelona, which is governed by Barcelona en Comú’s Ada Colau. En Comú Podem has been the most voted party at the last two general elections, but CatalunyaSiQueEsPot failed to impress at the regional vote.
  • 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.

Now, it’s easy to see why Ciudadanos and PP are criticising Colau. However, it’s not so easy to see why would she attend the rally.But why is she attending? And why are her allies also calling her out?

Ada Colau comes from an activist background. She used to be the leader of anti-eviction platform PAH. The Diada demostration wasn’t always so clearly pro-independence. It used to be a day to celebrate Catalan culture and political idiosincracy, and a moment for social activists to bring up all sorts of struggles. A couple of years back, it would be unthinkable of someone like Colau to miss it.

Although she’s the leader of platform that is not pro-independence, her party is not anti-independence either. Both Colau and other leaders, including national allies Pablo Iglesias and Alberto Garzón have often said that they favour the celebration of a binding referendum on independence. However, many of the leaders feel that focusing the debate on independence is taking the attention away from more pressing social issues, such as housing, employment or poverty. That’s why notable allies such as Luis Rabell (CatalunyaSiQueEsPot) and Joan Coscubiela (Barcelona en Comú) said that they felt alienated by the demonstration’s organisers, and that’s why they are criticising Colau for attending.

 

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