Spain: The day after bipartisanship

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By Juan Manuel Karg / Source actualidad.rt.com / The Dawn / December 21, 2015. Last Sunday’s elections in Spain left some certainties. Spanish bipartisanship has been wounded, and the crisis of the traditional parties deepens.

Pablo Iglesias, center right,  leader of Spanish Podemos (We Can) left-wing party, smiles as he marches to give a speech at the main square of Madrid during a Podemos (We Can) party march in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Tens of thousands of people, possibly more, are marching through Madrid’s streets in a powerful show of strength by Spain’s fledgling radical leftist party Podemos (We Can) which hopes to emulate the electoral success of Greece’s Syriza party in elections later this year. Supporters from across Spain converged onto Cibeles fountain before packing the avenue leading to Puerta del Sol square. Podemos aims to shatter the country’s predominantly two-party system and the “March for Change” gathered crowds in the same place where sit-in protests against political and financial corruption laid the party’s foundations in 2011. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

“We, men and women, also can

Let’s see: In 2008 the Popular Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) together won 84% of the vote, and in 2011 they reached 73%; in this election the number is barely 50%. That is a sharp drop, mainly caused by the fall of the ruling PP, which lost more than 3 and a half million votes and also left 63 deputies on the road. The PSOE, meanwhile, lost a million and a half voters, barely surpassing We Can (surpassingly only by 300,000 votes, approximately). We are talking about a dispute between the oldest political force in Spain, founded in 1879, against a movement that is barely two years old.

Why did ‘We Can’ burst in so strongly?

It ratified the comeback that was being talked about in Spain in recent weeks, capitalizing on the victories of Pablo Iglesias in different televised debates (where he criticized the bipartisanship of the PP / PSOE and even Albert Rivera). In their first general election the ‘purples’ (color of We Can) managed to get 69 deputies, more than the 40 deputies of Citizens, the “new” formation of the Spanish right, presented with great fanfare by the majority of the conservative press, to “buffer” there the PP’s fall. In addition, Iglesias’ party triumphed in Basque Country and Catalonia, and he came out second in Madrid, Valencia, Galicia, Canary and Balearic Islands. That is to say, it had an important presence throughout the territory, because of his idea of forming a “Plurinational State”, as Iglesias expressed in his conference following the results release.

The ‘day after bipartisanship’ begins with a request from the Spanish conservative press: to avoid a unit of the broad spectrum of the Spanish left, in order to dispel a “scenario like the one in Portugal”. Publishers of the ABC, El Mundo and La Razón newspapers raised fears of a hypothetical coalition between PSOE, the United Left and We can (which would be a “pact of losers”, a coalition “doomed to failure”, according to ABC). What’s behind this hypothesis? A requirement to Rivera to allocate his votes to Rajoy’s investiture. And also, of course, trying to split the leadership of the PSOE, which at this point should discuss what strategy of alliances they will carry out in the Parliament. A section of the Spanish right has expectations that at least a part of the PSOE legislative block will abstain in the vote, enabling Rajoy to stay in the presidency.

Rajoy has already made it clear that he intends to form a government. The King will then ask him to conform a majority of 176, something that right now seems unattainable for the PP. Then, he might ask for the formation of another parliamentary alliance (or the search for a simple majority). The most concrete example of both possibilities is what happened in Portugal, where Passos Coelho won, but then failed to form a government because of the coalition formed by the Left-wing Block(akin to Podemos)- PS-PC coalition. Will the PSOE be willing to form this alliance with We Can, the United Left and the nationalisms (of Catalonia and the Basque Country), whose seats could mean a lot right now? Will they accept Iglesias’ orders to advance in a Constitutional reform with social armor, which would also enable the possibility of a mid-term recall? Or will they prefer to bet —by act or by omission— to a weak government of Rajoy? These are all speculations (and especially negotiations) that are currently taking place in Spain. There will be a maximum of two months to resolve the issue: otherwise they shall call a new general election -something that seems far away, but should not be ruled out entirely.

There is one certainty: nothing will be the same in Spanish politics. Legislatures with overwhelming majorities are a thing from the past. Today three Parties have drawn more than 5 million votes, We Can is entering the “big leagues” of Spanish politics, leaving Citizens far behind. Therefore, Pablo Iglesias can say with certainty that he is the father of the great defeat of bipartisanship in the polls. He is the undeniable face of a new historical moment, which is also expressed in the “change of mayors”, represented by Ada Colau in Barcelona and Manuela Carmena in Madrid.

The coming weeks will clarify if the “day after” is the day of initiation of an “anti-austerity government” or the creation of another period of Rajoy’s government. That is, if the old dies and the new is born, paraphrasing Gramsci. Whatever happens, nothing will ever be the same.

Pablo Iglesias, center right, leader of Spanish Podemos (We Can) left-wing party, smiles as he marches to give a speech at the main square of Madrid during a Podemos (We Can) party march in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Tens of thousands of people, possibly more, are marching through Madrid’s streets in a powerful show of strength by Spain’s fledgling radical leftist party Podemos (We Can) which hopes to emulate the electoral success of Greece’s Syriza party in elections later this year. Supporters from across Spain converged onto Cibeles fountain before packing the avenue leading to Puerta del Sol square. Podemos aims to shatter the country’s predominantly two-party system and the “March for Change” gathered crowds in the same place where sit-in protests against political and financial corruption laid the party’s foundations in 2011. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

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