30/05/2022

Uphill

3 min
Uphill

In recent weeks, the road has been narrow and uphill for Pedro Sánchez. His survival manual has helped him overcome a few mountain passes in his career, but in politics there is always a day when the scales turn against you. It is the moment when public opinion begins to imagine the possibility of a changeover and this moment may be approaching in Spanish politics.

Weeks ago we were already talking about how a change of partners was brewing in the daily parliamentary life in Madrid. This week, once again, the Socialists no longer obtained the support of the parties which voted its coalition government with Unidas Podemos into power: PNV, Compromís, Nueva Canarias, BNG and Teruel Existe then voted in favour, while ERC and EH-Bildu abstained.

The outlook for the President of the Spanish Government has darkened with the war in Ukraine: inflation, a worsening economic outlook, Feijóo elected as PP leader, the Pegasus scandal and its aftermath in the intelligence services. The result of this accumulation of complications is a certain nervousness in the PSOE, aggravated by the proximity of Andalusian regional elections and the permanent look for agreements to avoid losing votes. Sánchez is seeking support from alternative sources, approaching the PP to the growing discomfort of the Catalan and Basque nationalists and also its own coalition partner.

The first sentence of Sanchez's investiture speech was an obvious "Ladies and gentlemen, Spain will not be broken up". Nowadays, the Spanish President is further cooling relations with ERC, the negotiating table is frozen and the fact is that new majorities have emerged on issues that guarantee the State's stability. These range from the monarchy (where a law regulating the king's inviolability was watered down) to the preservation of mainstream media's interest, especially the two largest media groups, Mediaset and Atresmedia. The new media law favours big TV channels and production companies linked to big media groups in Madrid to the detriment of the independent production companies and the use of the co-official languages.

In the coming weeks we will see the mutant majorities in the housing law, the national security law, the democratic memory law and the pension fund law. But the litmus test will be the State's general budget, which Minister María Jesús Montero is already preparing and which may be put to a vote or may be postponed.

The prospect of a darkened political and economic panorama and the holding of autonomic elections in Andalusia on June 19 is causing concern for the Spanish president. Some socialists insiders have begun discussing the idea that, if Andalusian elections indicate a turn in the tide, they should respond with a government reshuffle to strengthen the executive or by calling for a confidence vote in Pedro Sánchez.

The socialists' expectations in Andalusia are to maintain or worsen their last results. A setback would have repercussions on the expectations for local and regional elections in 2023, and general elections later on. Andalusia not only elects 61 of the 350 seats in the Spanish parliament, but a failure would also represent a moral blow for the socialists in what used to be their biggest and safest stronghold.

Majorities in Catalonia

The distancing between the Spanish Socialists and ERC has taken place at the same time as a rapprochement between the Catalan Socialists and ERC. They voted together on the new language law , thus preserving Catalanism's historical majority. The law, needed as the Celaá law did not protect Catalan – as Irene Rigau warned then – tries to manoeuvre around the High Court order to teach 25% of classes in Spanish. This ruling stems from the origin of so many evils: the Constitutional Court's decision to outlaw the Catalan Statute of Autonomy agreed between the main Catalan parties and ratified at the polls.

The agreement has been backed by almost 80% of MPs. We will see, once again, if the courts decide to go into politics or accept the decisions of the majority of the people's representatives. In the end, this will once again be key, as in the past few decades in which the judicial system has become, unfortunately, a political player of the first order.