A leadership coup inside the Spanish equivalent of the Labour Party may have restored the Spanish Tories to office.
After nine months with no government, prime minister Mariano Rajoy of the right wing Popular Party (PP) hopes to form one next week.
This is only possible because the Labour-type PSOE looks set to abstain on swearing him in. Coordinated resignations by its executive pushed out leader Pedro Sanchez for vowing to vote no.
General elections in December and June gave no party – or likely bloc of parties – a majority.
Parliament is split between the old PP and PSOE, new left party Podemos, new right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) and various small regional and nationalist parties.
The PP lost support over its brutal austerity and corruption scandals. Yet it remained the largest party in December. June even saw some voters return from Ciudadanos to the PP – and from Podemos to PSOE – to break the deadlock.
Rajoy blackmailed PSOE with the threat of calling a third election on Christmas Day. PSOE crumbled rather than risk taking the blame.
PSOE claims that, since Rajoy has a minority in parliament, the opposition will be able to vote through reforms he doesn’t want. But Rajoy aims to seek a constitutional veto. And his threat of a new election if he’s not allowed to govern will remain just as potent.
The political establishment’s paralysis will continue. The real disappointment is the opposition.
When Podemos erupted onto the scene in 2014 it looked set to sweep aside the old parties as Syriza had in Greece. Instead it finished third in December then lost a million votes by June despite allying with the Communist Party-led United Left.
Where it had initially challenged the whole corrupt political “caste”, it now offered only a coalition with the PSOE that began austerity. This let the right set the agenda and demobilised the left’s support.
If the best Podemos can offer is propping up the rotten PSOE, why vote Podemos? And if the PSOE can’t bring itself to stop Rajoy, why not just let Rajoy get on with it?
It will take a re-emergence of mass movements like those that shook the Spanish state from 2011-13 to break the deadlock.
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