Spain’s deadlock ends as PSOE-Podemos agreement gives the country its longed-for stable Government at last

Photo: Ángel Torres, Canarian President.

Updated 12 November: Perhaps it is possible to learn lessons after all. This time, there will be stable Government after the failed efforts of the past administration have finally succeeded in achieving a pact with Podemos. The two party leaders, PM Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias jointly announced the deal to unblock the paralysis that has affected the country for too long. Technically, the deal is more a confidence-and-supply agreement than a coalition but I imagine Spain won’t care about the technical detail since the agreement is set to last for the full four-year term. Stable Government. That must be nice …

 Updated 11 November: Spain’s political statis seems set to continue after yesterday’s election with the Socialist PSOE winning but without an overall majority. PM Pedro Sánchez says that he will now look for ways of breaking the deadlock and announce plans shortly.

The two stories of the day, however, are the collapse of the centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens’ Party) who were once on the verge of coalition Government but who have now plummeted to sixth place nationally with Party leader Albert Rivera resigning this morning, and the meteoric rise of the far-right Vox, polling in third nationally and actually winning in the Murcia region.

Apart from Vox’s jubilation and Ciudadanos’ despair, the main centre-right Partido Popular are also happy today, leader Pablo Casado bringing the Party back into the electoral mainstream, gaining 22 seats to make for a clear second-place showing. Some minds, however, will inevitably now be envisaging another election some months down the road.

Updated 6 November: Postal voters have already started participating in Spain’s General Election prior to the country going to the polls on Sunday. They can continue to vote until Friday. On Saturday, as in every election here, there is a day of reflection and so no campaigning on the day before votes are cast so for those tired of electioneering there is now not much over 48 hours left to suffer!

The latest polls have suggested that disturbances and protests in Catalonia could propel the far-right Vox into third place nationally, ahead of the left-wing Podemos and the centre-right Ciudadanos, though they also suggest that despite a “win” for the socialist PSOE, no single Party will win an outright majority. The situation would therefore be little changed from that which forced Sánchez’ hand to call the election, and pacts, increasingly difficult in an increasingly fractured political landscape, are likely to be needed again in order for Spain to have a stable government.

Original post 18 September: I imagine that there will be quite a few Spanish equivalents to Brenda of Bristol saying not another one but it does appear that Spain will have to go the polls again on 10 November, the fourth time in as many years. In a fracturing two-party system that the UK itself might need to get used to, there is no longer stability now that the PSOE and PP, the two major parties equating roughly to Labour and the Conservatives, have been joined by the centre-right Ciudadanos and the centre-left Podemos. Vox, a far right party, is also in the mix as are any number of regional parties.

The King made the announcement after days of talks, negotiations, haggling and accusations of treachery against various quarters from various other parts, and after he determined that no single party could command support to govern. Again it sounds drearily familiar. It is possible, barely, and hardly conceivably, that some movement will allow a solution to be found in the next few days but if it does not, Parliament will be dissolved this coming Monday, 23 September.

The real problem is that the Government does not have an overall majority, nor can make one with alliances. Sánchez had a chance of agreement with Podemos but with the smaller party demanding full coalition rather than a confidence-and-supply arrangement, the talks fell through. PM Pedro Sánchez said that the people had spoken very clearly at the last election, and that they needed to speak even more loudly on 10 November, his words reminiscent of those also heard in the UK at various points after the 2016 referendum.

So the people must speak again, and hopefully this time they will say something emphatic. But if there is any lesson to be learnt it is that it might be the politicians who are failing to listen rather than the people who aren’t speaking sufficiently clearly. If the people repeatedly say the two party system is dead and that coalition or multi-party governance is the future, there can surely only be so many times they can be asked before the two party-system, whether in the guise of proportional representation or First Past the Post, is pronounced dead. The real question is what replaces a fractured polity, and that is a question to which the UK, as well as Spain, needs to find an answer.

1 Comment

  1. As always, Janet, you have hit the nail firmly on the head with your astute analysis of the political situation, and with comparisons to the UK. As you said, listen to the people who appear more and more to be trying to get the politicians to realise the way forward is to change, and to compromise. Thanks again for the information.

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