Political deadlock: What is going on in Spain?

What are the main reason for a political deadlock in Spain that again led to an early elections? Could it be this time different? Read few comments.

Spanish PM and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez. Credit: https://www.psoe.es/

Luis MorenoResearch Professor, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Institute of Public Goods and Policies

The Spanish political system has passed from an alternate dominance in the central government by centre-left Socialist PSOE and centre-right PP-Popular Party. Now there are new parties (VOX, far right and right-to-centre C’s-Citizens; and leftists and former communists of UA-Unidas Podemos (United We Can).

In general terms, and according to my view the current political leaders of these 5 formations are of a ‘poor quality’. Unlike those responsible for the Transition from Franco’s dictatorship to constitutional democracy, they are unable to reach workable agreements for the formation of the national Government.

In particular, both PSOE and PP think that these coming elections could re-edit results as in the past so as to allow them to government formation depending ONLY on their electoral support. This does not seem to be the case at this point time. According to my intuition there would be two possible scenarios to unblock the political stalemate: (1) PSOE-UP, coalition government with parliamentary support by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV); and (2) PP-C’s-VOX governmental agreement. For both options there is a need to get the majority support of 176 of MPs (deputies of the Lower House).

Francesc TrillasSenior Lecturer, Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)

The main reason is the distrust among center left and radical left, exacerbated by the pressure of Catalan and Spanish nationalism. But every time things are different, because reality keeps evolving. The difficulties to form a left wing coalition will be the same or higher this time. Perhaps there is some margin of manoeuvre if the Popular Party reaffirm itself as a moderate party (given the expected collapse of center-right party Ciudadanos) and abstains in the parliamentary election of Pedro Sánchez as prime minister, in the case that the Socialist Party becomes again the first party. But I’m not sure…

Carsten Humlebæk, Associate Professor, Department of International Business Communication, Copenhagen Business School

Well: No, I don’t think the reasons are any different than it has been since Mariano Rajoy’s majority ended at the end of 2015. The leaders of the big parties don’t trust each other and are unable to get to the point where real coalitions become possible. Seemingly, the current trouble is related to the distrust between Sánchez and Iglesias, because they could have closed a deal of a coalition government during the summer, and in the end they didn’t. Sánchez wanted to govern alone (looking with envy on other social-democratic government in Europe, like the Danish) and was attempting to convince the rightwing to abstain, since they were not in a position to form government, but they didn’t abstain, which brought us where we are today.

But more than personal distrust between Sánchez and Iglesias, the last 4 years of Spanish politics have revealed that the political culture – democratic culture if you wish – is still lacking some development especially in terms of ability to reach broad agreements on important issues and coalition governments, which are out of the question with the current political climate. The Spanish politicians keep talking about ‘State issue’ [asunto de Estado] referring to the political issues that need to be backed by broad agreements, like territorial politics or labour market reforms. but they don’t even attempt to reach agreements.

Interestingly enough, this perhaps only goes for national government in Madrid, because at regional and municipal level coalition government exist in many places, especially since the appearance of Ciudadanos and Podemos.

Francisco Romero SalvadoReader in Modern Spanish History, University of Bristol

I am amazed as you can be at seeing the political deadlock which seems to be bound to continue after the vote this Sunday.

The problem is that the dominant two-party system has been shattered. A centrist party (Ciudadanos) born out of a split in the Catalan Socialist Party and then expanded nationwide in 2014 (?) had the key last time. But to the despair of many and the amazement of myself, its leader bet on shifting rightwards and trying to dispute that electoral space wit the Conservatives (Popular Party). He therefore refused to associate with the Socialists (as he had done a few years earlier in an ill-fated attempt by Pedro Sánchez to become PM (I believe it was in 2015).

At the same time, the relations between the Socialists (PSOE) and the extreme left Podemos have always been marked by mistrust (the aversion between their own leaders (Sanchez e Iglesias – was all but evident in the debate a couple of nights ago). This fracture is now worse by the emergence of a new party (Más País) led by a former colleague of Iglesias in Podemos, Errejón (now as you can imagine, mortal enemies).

The problem is compounded by the fact that the left depends on the votes of the Catalan and Basque nationalists to be voted in power. To accept this by the PSOE could be dinamite.

Last but not least, the excesses committed by Catalan Nationalists have finally awakened a similar response in Spain (Spanish Nationalism) represented by the extreme right-with party, Vox. In fact, Vox is the party (the only one) that seems to be growing .

Unfortunately, the only solution that (in my modest opinion) could give some kind of stability to the country and introduce the necessary legislation to fight the extreme nationalists and prepare for the imminent economic recession – a coalition like in Germany between Socialists and Conservatives – is something that Spanish politicians will not support.

Alejandro QuirogaReader in Spanish History, School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University

The main reasons behind the political deadlock is that the leadership of the PSOE (socialist party) did not want to form a coalition government with left-wing Podemos. Acting PM Pedro Sánchez thought that new elections would benefit him and obliterate Podemos. This could have been a miscalculation, we will see on Sunday, but according to all opinion polls the PSOE will not gain an absolute majority and Podemos will not disappear. It is difficult to make predictions, as ever.  But I think that the possibility of breaking the deadlock will pretty much depend on the political leaders intentions after the vote. The actual results might not change dramatically but, if the socialists win this time they may not be as reluctant to form a coalition government with Podemos. If the right wins the elections they will be happy to form a government as the far right Vox has been normalized by PP and Ciudadanos in regional and municipal governments (e.g. Madrid).

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