The PSOE in response to Iglesias's criticism of Spanish democracy
BarcelonaPablo Iglesias's declarations to ARA affirming that the fact that of the leaders of the two parties that govern Catalonia one being in jail and the other in exile demonstrates that in Spain "there is not a situation of full political and democratic normality" has provoked a real political storm in Madrid. The right-wing has come out to demand the immediate resignation of the vice-president of the Spanish government for, in their opinion, aligning himself with Russia in his criticism of Spanish democracy. But also Igesias's words have caused deep discomfort in the PSOE, despite the attempts of the minister spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero, to downplay the controversy.
The truth is that the controversy comes at a time of high tension between the two partners in government, who face each other in the polls in Catalonia and have in recent weeks opened different fronts around the trans law, housing and now the reform of the Penal Code to protect artists' freedom of expression following the Pablo Hasél case. It is also true that the fact that the case of the Catalan prisoners is being used by Russian diplomacy against the EU and to publicly humiliate Josep Borrell has particularly annoyed Madrid, where they consider the vice-president to have been disloyal.
But beyond the electoral context, it's worth pausing for a moment to consider the heart of the issue that Iglesias raised in the interview with ARA, and which affects the health of Spanish democracy. Because the question is not only that the leaders of the two parties that govern Catalonia are in prison or in exile, but that one of them, Oriol Junqueras, presides over the party that made the Pedro Sánchez's investiture possible in January 2020 and is the executive's main partner.
It was the PSOE that agreed to negotiate with ERC, in what was a tacit acceptance that they considered the conviction of the pro-independence leaders to be unjust, since no one would negotiate with coup plotters or seditionists, and which assumed that there was a "political conflict" between Catalonia and Spain. What the PSOE cannot pretend is to accept the votes of Junqueras and be in government thanks to pro-independence support, and then pretend that the current situation is one of political normality. Well it is not, as the leader of Podemos said; the situation is completely exceptional, and the sooner they assume it and take measures so that the conflict ceases to be in the hands of the judges and passes into politics, the better.
In the meantime, Spain's foreign image will continue to be tarnished and will be exploited by authoritarian countries like Russia to justify their own abuses. Or can Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya explain how many governments in the ranking list of democratic quality base their stability on a leader being imprisoned for political reasons? The answer is very simple: none.
Iglesias's courage in pointing out the weaknesses of Spanish democracy should be underlined. But he must also know that in the future he will not be valued for what he said in an interview, but for the fundamental changes he is capable of introducing.