A historic opportunity for the Spanish left
A government agreement between the PSOE and Podemos would favor continuity of dialogue with Catalonia
Pedro Sánchez, leader of the PSOE and acting Spanish PM, confirmed on Tuesday what could already be intuited since his victorious election night: the only possibility of a pact that he has is to his left; that is, with Podemos. Thus, Sánchez met with Pablo Iglesias for more than two hours and together they laid the foundations for the negotiations that will begin soon but will not reach fruition until after the local and European elections on May 26.
Sánchez, in fact, had no other choice after the door was slammed in his face in the morning by Albert Rivera, who insisted that Ciudadanos would not support the PSOE candidate in parliament. Rivera, ignoring the pressure from the establishment —that dreams of an administration influenced by Ciudadanos—, is determined to move forward with his project of replacing the PP as the hegemonic party to the right of the PSOE. And this even after verifying that the Spanish electorate has turned its back on the hard line with Catalonia defended by the three parties on the right.
In fact, an agreement between the PSOE and Podemos is the best option for Catalonia’s sovereignty movement, since it favors a certain commitment to dialogue, though it remains to be seen how much traction that will have. But, above all, because it makes less likely the phantom of a PSOE-C’s deal, which would be very harmful to coexistence in Catalonia and would lessen the chances for a resolution of the conflict. However, Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias have to go beyond their respective parties and make an honest effort to understand the reasons that led to the beginning of the independence process without demonizing anyone on the other side of the table, neither ERC nor JxCat.
The eventual agreement between the PSOE and Podemos will simmer slowly over the next few weeks, and Iglesias will have to decide whether he will accept not entering into a government coalition and be content with being the PSOE’s priority partner. Sánchez will also try to add the PNB and Compromís to the agreement, so as to bring together 172 seats in parliament, four shy of the absolute majority. It is a sufficient number for any government, and it is similar, for example, to the 169 that Zapatero had in 2008. From there, the pro-independence groups have already shown their willingness to negotiate and vote for specific measures, as they have done during the 10 months of the current Sánchez government.
Ultimately, however, everything will depend on Pedro Sánchez’s courage and the ability of Iglesias to drag him towards bold positions. If this historic alliance between the PSOE and the alternative left is eventually confirmed, Spain will be facing a historic opportunity to come up with a political solution to the Catalan conflict. With a divided and disoriented right, and a European Union that prefers the path of negotiation, the Spanish left must take a step forward and put a proposal on the table to unlock the situation.
If it does not do so, it will be laying the groundwork for a triple-right electoral recovery, which, as we have known since Tuesday, will make Catalonia its main battering ram against the government in Madrid. Sánchez and Iglesias should keep this very much in mind.