The Day After The Night Before Syndrome has struck the political ruling class in Spain.
They had a worrying few hours, as it seemed that their Master Plan to stymie the onrush of the independent movement in Catalonia had disastrously backfired, and then it was confirmed that far from being stopped, the independence parties had managed to retain their absolute majority in the new parliament of Catalonia.
How to spin the disaster?
The Spanish ruling PP party did exceptionally disastrously in Catalonia: they lost 11 of their seats and now have the shaming total of 3 (three) seats in the new parliament! And even more humiliatingly, they fail to justify the numbers to be considered a separate group and are now lumped in with the minor parties in the ‘mixed group’ of parliamentarians.
But there was one bright spot for the woefully inadequate political leader Rajoy to go on about. The fairly new right wing party of Cs gained 25.4 of the votes and 37 seats and will be the largest single party in parliament. But an absolute majority is 68 seats and so they are nowhere near that number. If they were to go into coalition they could count of the mighty support of the party with whom they slavishly vote with nationally, PP - so that boosts their total by 3 (sic.) to 40, still 28 seats short of an absolute majority.
They might be able to use the votes of the Catalan ‘socialists’ PSC, as PSC have allied themselves with their natural enemies of PP and Cs against the independence movement in Catalonia. PSC gained 17 seats, so if they voted with PP and Cs the total strength would be 57, still 11 short of an absolute majority.
The only other party which is opposed to independence for Catalonia (though they do advocate a binding referendum on Catalan independence some time in the future) is Comú, the Catalan version of Podemos. Comú is more left wing than the other parties in this grouping and is a very, very uncomfortable bedfellow, even if they could be persuaded to join such an unholy alliance. And even if they did, their 8 seats would give a final total for the anti-independence grouping of 65 - 3 short of an absolute majority.
On the other side: JxC with 34 seats; ERC with 32 and CUP with 4, make a total of 70 - 2 over an overall majority. They win.
So, our exiled President in Belgium has offered talks with Rajoy anywhere in Europe other than Spain (where he would be arrested as soon as he set foot on Spanish soil) to start the political dialogue. This is a situation that needs a political solution.
Rajoy has refused. Or rather he has offered talks, or as he puts it in his alternative universe, “continued dialogue” (!) as long as the Catalan side is legal i.e. have rejected the idea of independence. This is a sort of Catch-22 situation where the reason that there is a problem is the only thing that can’t be talked about in trying to resolve it.
I sometimes wonder if Rajoy doesn’t have some orange sash wearing Northern Ireland protestant unionist blood in him somewhere as the only word that he can say (and does with boring regularity) with absolute confidence is, “No!”
Our Spanish “entirely independent legal system” (sic) has stated that it has its sights on other rebellious, seditious and criminal persons of interest who all happen to be leaders of independence groupings. As some of our political leaders are already political prisoners we can see where this is going.
As these political prisoners have now been elected to the new parliament, how is that going to work? Are the imprisoned parliamentarians going to be ferried to the parliament building in prison vans and taken back to prison at the end of the day? How is our likely president going to function when he is in exile in Belgium? How will the voting take place? Will the prisoners be allowed to vote? Is that how Rajoy hopes to reduce the absolute majority of the independence parties to allow more ‘friendly’ fellow travellers to take over?
Rajoy has already said that he will ready and willing to talk to the ‘winner’ of the election in Catalonia: the leader of the Cs. This is not the way forward. Unfortunately Rajoy is too politically myopic to see any way forward but his own.
The New Year will bring the first meeting of the new parliament.
Who knows what might have happened before the vote for the next president!
Everything is still to play for.