By Jack Wright
Madrid, 2 August 2016. The much-awaited meeting between the candidate of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), Mariano Rajoy, for President (a.k.a. Prime Minister), and opposition leader Pedro Sanchez of the socialist party, Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), took place in the Congress of the Deputies late this morning.
What should have paved the way for the formation of a government presided by Rajoy, following the failed parliamentary election in June 2016, lasted 50 futile minutes, dashing hopes of an early new government.
Despite Rajoy’s reiteration, at the press conference held separately from Sanchez after the ill-fated meeting, of “the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to form a government,” neither he nor Sanchez has budged an inch from their entrenched positions. They simply can’t rise above their ideological rivalry and a decided lack of rapport.
Rajoy insists that what he’s been offering all this time, and what he’s offered again at the meeting, is “dialogo abierto”, whatever that is.
At his own press conference, ahead of Rajoy’s, Sanchez hammered away at the illogic of PSOE’s supporting a government that it wants to change: “No vamos a apoyar al [gobierno y su programa] que queremos cambiar.”
He adds: What Rajoy is proffering is a “gran coalicion” led by PP, with the participation of PSOE and the center-right Ciudadanos as second fiddle. Which makes no sense, and is unacceptable, given that PSOE is counter-offering an “alternativa” to the conservative party platform.
For the nth time he urged Rajoy to go look for support among the conservative parties (“las derechas”) and leave PSOE alone; there are so many of those in Congress. In the same breath, though, he adds that there’s a majority in Congress who wants a change from the PP government which, in the last legislature, enjoyed an absolute majority in both Chambers of the Parliament. That situation enabled it to pass laws unhampered by an effective opposition, some of which turned out to be hugely unpopular, like the Law on Labor Reform.
Without the abstention of the socialists in the voting for the investiture of Rajoy as president of a new government it’s practically impossible for Rajoy, president in the last legislature, to achieve a second term. A negative socialist vote will make it impossible for him to get re-elected.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the acting government thinks it inevitable that the European Union will levy a fine of €5,000 million (€5 billion in American lingo) on Spain and freeze €1,100 million in structural funds for the country if the politicians are unable to pass a Budget for Revenue and Expenditure for fiscal year 2017 by 15 October 2016.
This horrendous penalty, with its predictable dreadful effects on the Spanish economy, stems from Spain’s excessive 2015 budget deficit which at 5.16% of GDP missed the 4.2% target set by the European Commission by a wide margin.
The interim government claims it has successfully staved off the fine last 27 July but it will be unstoppable in October without the said budget which should show the Commission that Spain is doing everything possible to reduce the inadmissible deficit.
To some, the thing smacks of blackmail. But whatever it is it has not swayed Sanchez into committing his party to Rajoy’s re- election. The country has to have a president, who will form a government, in order to produce the aforementioned budget.
If Rajoy, who’s quite unpopular in some quarters, losses his bid for investiture, not only will Spain be penalized by the European Commission, says PP; a new parliamentary election will have to be called. And, according to the conservative leader, a third election within a period of one year is simply “una locura (a madness).”
Sanchez seems to agree but he doesn’t think it’s up to PSOE to prevent it.
No wonder Rajoy looked dejected and listless at the press conference.
And yet, at this point, only a very small minority is seriously considering an alternative candidate for presidency, be he/she from PP or from PSOE, just to avoid another snap election.
>Featured image by Alyssa L. Miller (https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/), CC BY 2.0 Generic
>Congress of the Deputies by Your Travel to Spain (https://www.flickr.com/photos/madridsensations/), CC BY 2.0 Generic
>Rajoy by European People’s Party (https://www.flickr.com/photos/eppofficial/), CC BY 2.0 Generic, cropped
>Sanchez by FSA-PSOE (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fsapsoe/), CC BY No-Derivs 2.0
>European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker by Friends of Europe (https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsofeurope/), CC BY2.0 Generic