González's change of heart over pardons

2 min
José Bono and Felipe González during the act of the 30th anniversary of the attempted coup d'état of 23-F to Congress in 2011.

The PSOE as a whole has seen the danger it could fall into over pardons and has decided to close ranks with Pedro Sánchez in order to avoid giving arguments to the three right-wing parties who will demonstrate on Sunday in Plaza de Colón. The most significant move was made by former President Felipe González, who just a few weeks ago said in a television appearance that the circumstances were not right for them to be granted, yet this Thursday he described the initiative as "healthy". It is true that González, on the same television programme, was critical of the judicialisation of the Catalan conflict and defended that the issue had to be taken to the political arena; therefore, in a way, he left the door open to a rectification that has not taken long to arrive.

Also this Thursday another eminent representative of the more conservative and Spanish nationalist side of PSOE, José Bono, has endorsed pardons in an article in El País, in which he states that, despite the many doubts he has, he does not want to be part of the "platoon of hatred" that he believes the right wing represents. And a few days ago it was the president of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara, who endorsed the pardons after an article written by Oriol Junqueras in ARA. If we add to all this the cautious silence of Susana Díaz in Andalusia and Emiliano García-Page's change of tone we will see that, little by little, the whole PSOE is closing ranks around pardons because they understand that it is President Sánchez's irrevocable decision and that, at a time like this, a certain internal discipline has to be maintained.

With regard to Catalonia, these moves are the definitive proof that Sánchez is going all out and that he is willing to take an unpopular decision that could have an undeniable electoral impact. Whether the PSOE is acting in this way out of conviction or because it has no choice to remain in government, or because of the threat that the Spanish justice system and government will be exposed by the European courts and other civil rights bodies, is another matter.

The PSOE, then, has become aware that its future is at stake with this operation, that it has to give the dialogue table continuity and that it cannot go into such a tough battle with the right wing divided. And it is precisely the shouting and exaggerations of the right that is also contributing to this socialist regrouping, of leaders, but also of the militancy, around their leader. Be that as it may, parliamentary arithmetic and Sánchez's need for ERC's votes in the Spanish parliament have opened a crack that must be explored and taken advantage of to obtain concrete gains, whether pardons or the reform of the crime of sedition in the Penal Code, which will serve both to redirect the conflict and put an end to repression.

Meanwhile, the right is beginning to wave the flag of anti-Europeanism, anticipating both the report against the repression by the Council of Europe and future pronouncements by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of the condemned. And the PSOE sees this too.