Spain on course for new elections

Spain has been without a government since the parliamentary elections on December 20. The Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez has announced that his attempt to form a majority with Podemos and Ciudadanos has failed. Everything points to new elections on June 26. Commentators are annoyed at the politicians' incompetence.

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eldiario.es (ES) /

Election campaign as punishment for incompetent politicians

To speed up the process of new elections some Spanish politicians have proposed dispensing with the election campaign phase entirely. Author Isaac Rosa demands a double dose of campaigning this time round:

“I have no intention of voting again unless the candidates do the rounds on all the talk shows. They must dance, sing, talk about their private affairs and suck up to the pensioners. … I want a double portion of jokes about rivals, faux pas, boring arguments, fabricated scandals and phrasemongering on the evening news programmes. Don't worry, I don't expect any of you to go to the rallies or spend hours on the couch watching TV. … It is the politicians who must do their duty, not us. I can't imagine a better election campaign than one in which politicians make their speeches to empty auditoriums, attack each other in TV debates with no viewers and walk along the streets smiling while people run away when they see them coming. That's the minimum punishment they deserve for their failures of the last few months.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Podemos's weakness a chance for Socialist Sánchez

Spain's parties have been trying to form a new government for 100 days now. On Wednesday the leaders of the Socialists and the left-wing Podemos party, Pedro Sánchez und Pablo Iglesias, met once again for talks. It now looks like a more compromising stance on the part of Podemos could give the coalition negotiations fresh impetus, the conservative daily El Mundo observes:

“Will Podemos facilitate Sánchez's election as prime minister by supporting his candidacy or abstaining? All indications are that this will be difficult but not impossible, because the Podemos leadership and its regional allies have realised that they could be harshly punished in new elections. Following an internal crisis that revealed its lacking unity all the recent polls point to heavy losses for the party. It seems clear that Iglesias doesn't want to risk a new vote. And he doesn't want to take the blame for new elections being held because of his intransigence vis-à-vis Sánchez.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Rajoy will have the last laugh

Mariano Rajoy will remain prime minister after all, analyst Bernardo Pires de Lima comments in the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias:

“Rajoy is waiting for the government to play into his hands as a result of [Socialist leader] Sánchez's exhaustion and Ciudadanos leader Rivera's sense of patriotism. His plan is as follows: he will begin new talks with PSOE and Ciudadanos in the hope of winning Rivera's sympathy - and benefiting from socialist leader Pedro Sánchez's double defeat. According to the constitution Rajoy has an extra period of 60 days before Spain's king must call new elections.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Socialist Sánchez has lost his gamble

For Sánchez to attain the simple majority he needs in the second ballot on Friday, either left-wing Podemos or Rajoy's conservative PP would have to abstain. A risky position for the Socialists, writes the centre-left daily Der Standard:

“Sánchez had hoped that Podemos would abstain in the second vote. That would give him free reign to govern with changing majorities - to push through unpopular cuts with a right-wing majority and some minor social reforms with a left-wing majority. But Podemos wouldn't play along. … So there's only one solution: the ruling PP, plagued by corruption scandals, abstains from the vote. This course would have more advantages than disadvantages for the conservatives: it would buy them time to regroup and rid themselves of their reputation for corruption. But for Sánchez this is a dangerous game. A closet grand coalition could hurt the PSOE. Pasok in Greece and Labour in Ireland are examples of how that can end up.”

eldiario.es (ES) /

Rajoy still in the dark about constitution

In the debate that preceded the first ballot in the Spanish parliament the incumbent conservative head of government Mariano Rajoy mocked the fact that someone who represents fewer votes than he does was running for the office of PM. Clearly Rajoy hasn't yet understood the system, Ignacio Escolar rails on the left-wing website eldiario.es:

“Rajoy has once again proven that the Socialists and Podemos urgently need to make a pact to banish him from government once and for all. The incumbent prime minister was insulting and arrogant; contemptuous towards a parliament that rightly rejects him unanimously. Rajoy still hasn't understood what is written in the constitution he is so fond of holding up: In Spain it is not the minority with the most votes that governs but those who have the most support among the deputies. He may find that strange, but that's how parliamentary democracy works.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Coalition talks just a show

The Socialist PSOE party and Ciudadanos moved closer to forming a coalition in talks on Tuesday. But because even together they won't have a majority in the Spanish Congress of Deputies the conservative daily El Mundo sees this as pure show and considers new elections inevitable:

“Whatever the case, time is running out and it seems very unlikely that Pedro Sánchez will be able to build a parliamentary majority that would allow him to stay in office, even at a second ballot. So it could be that the Socialist candidate is planning a tactical defeat in order to strengthen his position in future elections. We are certainly experiencing a period of confusion, also because the non-stop press conferences and public appearances by party leaders are turning into acts of propaganda. Rather than creating more clarity, they are only creating more confusion.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Catalan referendum should not be taboo

The left-wing party Podemos presented an offer for forming a coalition with the Socialist PSOE party on Monday which stipulates a referendum on Catalan independence as one of its conditions. The Socialists should definitely consider the offer, the centre-left daily El Periódico de Catalunya advises:

“Despite the difficulties Podemos's document may pose for the Socialists, the proposal for a referendum in Catalonia should not be rejected out of hand. It's not enough to say, as Sánchez is doing, that one is trying to disentangle the Catalan problem but to mark as a red line a proposal that is backed by the majority of Catalan society . … That line shouldn't be all that red considering that the Spanish Socialists have been able to live for years with the Catalan Socialists, who back the referendum.”

eldiario.es (ES) /

Socialists need the separatists

The Socialist Pedro Sánchez will resume the coalition talks this Monday. Since there isn't a left-wing majority in the Spanish Congress a left-wing alliance would have to rely on the support of separatists parties, Ignacio Escolar points out on the left-wing website eldiario.es:

“There is only one absolute majority in Congress - for a good reason - and that's the majority against the [conservative ruling party] PP. That means there are only two options: either they all agree on a minimum consensus in which everyone makes concessions (including the Socialists regarding Catalonia) or new elections are held in a few months' time. Anything else can't be seen as a negotiating strategy but only as party politics aimed at the others being blamed for failed negotiations - and as part of a pre-election campaign for new elections.”

ABC (ES) /

Socialists won't achieve a stable majority

Sánchez won't provide Spain with a stable government either, the conservative daily ABC fears:

“Now the weaknesses of the Socialist leader will become even more apparent. He lacks the votes needed to reach a viable deal with the far left as well as the trust of his own party colleagues necessary to embark on the adventure of negotiations that right now are nothing but pipe dreams. If Sánchez yields too much to Podemos it would be irresponsible vis-à-vis Spain because the resulting project would be neither politically nor economically viable in the European context and it would be incompatible with an advanced liberal democracy like that in Spain. … You can't make up for a lack of stature by standing on tiptoes.”

El País (ES) /

Spain needs another transition

Spain would be far better off with a new policy of national consensus than with a shaky governing coaltion, the centre-left daily El País warns:

“Everything points to our being in an exceptional situation in which far more is at stake than just a four-year government programme. We're talking about a dense agenda of reforms and state agreements that requires the approval of a qualified majority. … In 1977 [during the transition to democracy] these reforms were achieved with a minority government amidst a climate of consensus and mutual loyalty. This is a historical moment and, now as back then, it requires responsible action, moderation, generosity and consensus among our elites, who must overcome partisan tendencies and ideological, polarising divisions to counter the dangers of vetos, retaliatory acts and anti-system strategies.”

Público (ES) /

Podemos MPs aren't back benchers

The left-wing Podemos party, which made it into parliament for the first time in the recent elections, is to sit in back benches, the parliamentary board has decided. The left-wing online paper Público very much hopes this is just a bad joke:

“To banish the parliamentary group of Podemos, which is after all the third-strongest party in terms of votes, to the back benches sounds like a schoolyard prank that hasn't been properly thought through. Because if it has been thought through that would only make matters worse. Let's make them invisible! We'll put them out of the cameras' range! So if they brandish posters or do the typical things communists do, it will be easier to send them away without the cameras recording what methods of persuasion were used to do so. … What next? Will they puncture the tires of [environmental activist] Juantxo López de Uralde's bike so he misses the votes? Or have long-haired Podemos MPs' hair checked for nits every time they enter?”

El Huffington Post (ES) /

Government in Spain should finally start governing

Instead of wasting time with formalities Spain's newly elected deputies should finally focus on resolving their country's pressing problems, the centre-left website El Huffington Post demands:

“Dear parliamentarians, your time is limited. Another week of drama has been wasted on forming parliamentary groups, so when you meet next week to decide those issues so vital to you like who gets which office and which room, please be quick about it and don't waste any more time with bickering. … Don't forget that you are working in this building - Parliament - because things are getting ugly outside. Outside on the streets are the citizens who still haven't felt any positive effects from the recovery, as the latest statistics show. On Monday it was confirmed that Spain is one of the OECD countries where inequality has increased most since the start of the economic crisis. Only Cyprus is ahead of us in this respect.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Merkel loses her ally in Madrid

The swearing-in of the president of Spain's new Congress of Deputies is a defeat for both the Spanish prime minister and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his biggest supporter, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera writes:

“For the first time in the history of Spanish democracy it was not the party that won the most votes that has appointed the president of Congress: outgoing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's People's Party, who in the last four years has done everything Chancellor Angela Merkel told him to do. ... Merkel clearly has no more loyal allies on the western flank of the Continent. The eastern flank already broke ranks after the nationalists in Poland put an end to Donald Tusk's pro-German policies with their election victory. The outer bastions are falling precisely at a time when the chancellor also seems weakened in her own country.”

ctxt.es (ES) /

Spain headed for grand coalition under EU's yoke

The fact that Patxi López' election was facilitated by the support of the liberal Ciudadanos party and the abstention of the conservatives points to the formation of a coalition between these previously warring parties, the centre-left news site ctxt.es fears:

“The election of the president of the Congress proves that the Spirit of 78 [the dominance of the two major parties since the constitutional reform of 1978] is not dead yet, that the new catchphrase will be 'reform' and that a grand coalition of three parties is the solution preferred by the [Spanish stock index] Ibex and the EU. … This could - what a horrible thought - become the first stable legislature. With a grand coalition that forms a government without sovereignty that accepts all Europe's demands.”