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Two days that shook Spain

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

by Jaime Martinez Porro (Izquierda Unida Berlin)

Picture (c) 2019 The Associated Press

On Sunday 10 November at 8 p.m. the first exit polls appear on Spanish televisions. The worst fears are confirmed: franquist far-right party VOX emulates other European far-right parties and reaches almost 15% of the votes in the general elections. It remains to be seen the correlation of forces between the left-right blocks, but everything points to both social democracy (PSOE) and the left (Unidas Podemos - confederal alliance of the Izquierda Unida, Podemos and EN Comú) regressing slightly in seats and votes.

The count, which is advancing rapidly, confirms at 11 p.m. that VOX will be the third force in Spain with 52 seats (+28). The social democrat PSOE wins with 120 (-3), the conservative PP comes second with 89 (+23), Unidas Podemos can maintain the fourth position with 35 (-7) and the "liberals" of Ciudadanos fall to 10 (-47). In addition there are 11 more parties in the parliamentary arch: the Catalan nationalists and sovereignists of ERC (13), JxCat (8) and CUP (2), the Basque nationalists and sovereignists of PNV (6) and Bildu (5), the left-wing national populism of Más País (3), the Canarian nationalists of CC-NC (2) and the Galicians of BNG (1), the conservative regionalists of Navarra+ (2) and PRC of Cantabria (1), as well as the party against rural depopulation Teruel Existe! (1).

The media focus is on VOX. Most of the media (also those considered "left-wing" such as La Sexta) continue to feed the extreme-right epic they have been feeding for months. Nothing matters more than listening to the speeches of the post-Franco leaders Abascal, Ortega-Smith, Espinosa de los Monteros and Monasterio, while millions of Spaniards view this situation with enormous concern. Pablo Iglesias, candidate of Unidas Podemos, reminds Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) his phrase "I couldn't sleep well with Unidas Podemos ministers in government", paraphrasing with "one sleeps worse with 52 fascist deputies in Congress".

And it is the reality: many of us slept badly that day, before the prospect of either a possible government of national concentration (PSOE-PP) or the repetition of the elections (and their risks) with the immobilism of the PSOE.

That same day at night, dozens of socialist militants ask Pedro Sánchez for a government of the left and not of national concentration. On Monday, however, the organization secretary of the PSOE gives one of the most shameful press conferences remembered in many years. Openly confronting journalists who recriminate the arrogant attitude of the PSOE despite its loss of seats, he goes so far as to say that "those who want the PSOE-Unidas Podemos government are infiltrated into the ranks of the PSOE". Faced with this panorama, the feared PSOE-PP government was being glimpsed every time. At the same time, the TV debates analyze the rise of the extreme right and continue to give a privileged voice to their leaders in the mainstream media.

On Tuesday at noon everything changes. It is announced that there will be a press conference of Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias in Moncloa to announce a pre-agreement of government based on some fundamental lines expressed in 10 basic points, as well as on the draft of the General State Budgets that they agreed in 2018 and that were the most social from the beginning of the parliamentary monarchy (with considerable improvements of the Minimum Interprofessional Wage, protection of the public pensions, increase of the investment in science, Tobin tax to the banks, etc.). However, these budgets did not succeed due to the refusal of the Catalan independentists, who claimed the priority of the Catalan agenda over the social agenda (leading us to this new electoral cycle).

Since Tuesday, the PSOE and Unidas Podemos seek support to form the government. Currently there have 155 seats out of 176 needed for a first round investiture. For a second round is enough more "YES" than "NO" discounting abstentions). PNV, Más País, PRC or Teruel Existe! have already shown their support, while BNG and CC-NC have shown a propensity to support. Bildu and ERC are the key: PSOE and Unidas Podemos offer a multilateral negotiating table to deal with territorial issues in Spain, a formula that could lay the foundations for opening the debate on the state model in this legislature (monarchy and republic, federalism, self-determination of peoples). On this point, the PSOE has its own internal reticence: there are not a few territorial barons of the PSOE (like Page) who have rebelled against this government pact, precisely by wielding territorial issues. This point will probably determine whether or not a government is formed.

Meanwhile, in the PSOE, Izquierda Unida and Podemos, referendums have already been called to ratify the agreement between 22 and 24 November. On the weekend of November 16 and 17, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain (within Izquierda Unida) and the Political and Social Assembly of Izquierda Unida showed their support for entering a government with ministries, knowing the risks involved in reaching an agreement with social democracy. It is considered that the situation is one of emergency in the face of the advance of the ultra-right and that it is time to fight it in all the trenches, including the governmental one. However, it is not going to be easy and it will be necessary to have a mobilized street that pushes the ministers of Unidas Podemos, when the doubts and hesitations of the PSOE arise.

As the famous Spanish journalist Iñaki Gabilondo said, "If this coalition government succeeds, it will constitute a novelty of our democracy and a challenge of the utmost difficulty for our left; if they fail, the right will be in power until Princess Leonor has grandchildren. In mid-December we will know if there is a left-wing coalition government in Spain and in the future we will be able to analyse its consequences.

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