The blustery weather of the morning has settled down to a sunny afternoon with breeze enough to move the topmost branches of the trees. The actual weather may be settling down, but the political climate in Spain is reaching tornado force!
As was obvious from the start of the ill-fated pact between the PSOE party (roughly Labour) and the new C’s party (right wing nationalist) as they did not have an overall majority between them, they failed to win the vote in parliament yesterday as everyone else (with one abstention) voted against them. So we are now on for a revote on Friday when, unless something dramatic happens in the next few hours is likely to be a repeat of the last vote and therefore be the start of a new election campaign as the country is asked to vote again.
The sticking point for PSOE, and what stops them being the government is a combination of old party arrogance; ‘barons’ in PSOE heartlands saying no; vested interests; fear of the break up of Spain, and hatred of Catalonia.
PSOE could have won the vote on Wednesday if they had pacted with Podemos which is a left wing, recently formed party which is looking for a new way of doing politics in the country. A country, I might add that, since the glorious death of the dictator Franco has gifted more power than it ought to have to the political parties as a way of ensuring the survival and growth of democracy. However good the initial idea was, the reality over the past decades has seen the major political parties get too much power and begin to abuse it.
Spain has been rocked by corruption scandal after corruption scandal - every day something new and breath taking!
Although PP (Conservatives) seem to be systemically corrupt with laughable proportions of the party being accused of what looks like clear corruption, the other parties are not immune from dipping their greedy fingers into the public till. It was this morass of corruption that gave birth to Podemos and the C’s – both in their own ways suggesting a way forward.
PP (amazingly, given all the negative publicity they have had) has the largest number of seats of all the parties, but no overall majority. Even with their natural allies, the right wing C’s they could not form an overall majority. So they, through their so-called leader refused the King’s invitation to try and form a government. There has been a risible offer of some sort of government of national unity with the present leader continuing as president, but that was dismissed by all the other parties.
PSOE and Podemos would have an overall majority if they pacted, and the leader of PSOE would then become president. But, the power of vested interests and what looked like pretty inept political footwork on the part of PSOE and Podemos meant that PSOE pacted with the C’s – with all the consequent problems.
Now that PSOE and the C’s have failed, there needs to be a new approach.
Podemos (quite rightly in my view) will not pact with the C’s – they have little in common with them and they believe that the C’s are just PP in another guise. Podemos are still prepared to pact with PSOE and then they will form the government.
The presenting problem (if not the real one) is that Podemos is a blanket term for a number of politicians who are separatist. So, for PSOE to become the government, it would have to pact with parties whose avowed intent is to break away from Spain. This is a difficulty. Podemos have also offered Catalonia a referendum about independence. PSOE will have nothing to do with that and say that the whole of Spain would have to vote on any region opting out.
There are real problems about the present organization of Spain into regions. Most of which are to do with money. Catalonia says that for far too long it has paid far too much into the coffers of Spain to bail out other regions and has not had the development money that it deserves for itself. This seems to me to be a fair point, though as soon as any discussion gets on to the topic then sensible debate is lost in simultaneous shouting! Then there is the Basque Country!
So, there are problems about PSOE and Podemos getting together. But that is why we have politicians. It is their job to get what should happen to happen.
The only way PSOE is going to be the government is with Podemos. So what do they have to do to make that possible?
The referendum for Catalonia can wait. If PSOE forms the government (with Podemos) then it could reform the present system for the regions and eventually present Catalonia with a fairer system of finance and representation. If they did this and then give the region (sorry, country) a referendum then I think that the majority of the population would vote to stay in Spain and in the EU.
The other objections to Podemos are mirrors and smoke and the reality of power would show just how insubstantial those were.
If PSOE want power they have to pact, and pact with Podemos. Simple. The rest is details worked out by the wonks of both parties who like that sort of thing. The entire name calling and blustering of the past few days is no more than that; the reality of power is worth compromising for.
But will they?
If logic ruled the voters then no one in their right mind would vote for PP. It has been shown to be systemically corrupt and arrogant about its guilt. No one resigns in this benighted country, no matter how clear their guilt is. But logic is not the force you can put your faith in. 30% seems to be the bedrock of PP votes. 30% of this electorate will vote for PP even if they started slaughtering children on live television. And if they use the key words and phrases like: ‘break up of Spain’, ‘soft on terrorism’, ‘economic strength’, ‘Venezuela’, ‘ETA ‘, ‘Catalonia’, ‘stability’, ‘Cuba’ and the rest of the language of the right then they could actually improve their position.
The C’s have shown themselves prepared to pact with ‘socialists’ (though of course PSOE are nothing of the sort) and their base voters (and yes, I do mean that to be a pun) might feel that they have been betrayed by the pact that their photogenic leader agreed to in his lust for power. Perhaps the voters, who saw the C’s as a breath of fresh right wing air, might now return to their previous masters in PP.
PSOE are in the most difficult position of all. They have made a pact with right-wingers and it has failed. So far. Although the leader of PSOE has tried to appear statesmanlike, without the reality of power it is just posturing. He has pacted with natural enemies, in the hope that he would be able to get Podemos on board (or at least abstaining) with a raft of policies that he felt that Podemos would have to support.
Ideally, PSOE would have wanted the C’s and Podemos together with themselves forming a progressive, reforming party with PSOE playing the C’s off against Podemos so that they could get what they liked. That hasn’t (yet) worked.
In the next general election who knows what would happen to the PSOE vote. The leader would have been shown to have failed, and if he doesn’t pact with Podemos, there might well be an unholy alliance of PP and the C’s which might in the next election have sufficient seats to give the present government the extension they want.
The situation is, to put it mildly, difficult. No party can really trust what might happen in another general election – but my instinct is that the right will come out better than the left and that we will have another PP led government. Which will be an absolute disgrace and an insult to decent Spaniards.
PSOE will have to swallow hard and do the right thing. They need power to clean up after PP. Podemos is the only way that they are going to get that power. QED.
Do I think that PSOE and Podemos will pact? My instinct says no. And that makes me very sad. Unfortunately I do not have a vote in the general election in this country, but I am prepared to give my time and effort to help Podemos make a difference.