The government of the oligarchy

Mariano Rajoy will be elected prime minister of Spain thanks to the abstention of the Socialist deputies

300 days of endless discussion, 300 days of postponing the approval of budgets, 300 days of irritation and weariness for Spanish citizens, 300 days without a government in a country that dreamt of an alternative country. On Sunday October 23, the people of Spain were told of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE)’s decision to abstain in a confidence vote over the Popular Party (PP)’s government, reducing to almost zero the possibility of avoiding four more years of Mariano Rajoy in power. Spain will keep the same prime minister who ruled the country with a majority for the past four years. Rajoy will be elected prime minister thanks to the abstention of PSOE deputies, a milestone for the traditional Spanish “turnism” that only provides further evidence about the oligarchy that rules the country.

DOORSTEP 2016-09-16 BRATISLAVA SUMMIT
Informal Meeting of the 27 Heads of the State or Government
Photo: Andrej Klizan. Public domain

After two inconclusive elections, the PP still needs the PSOE to either support its government or to abstain in a parliamentary confidence vote. In the decades of the so-called “Transition”, after the end of the dictatorship in Spain, the PP and the PSOE alternated in power from one to the other, in what seemed to be a consensual agreement with the citizens. After the economic crisis of 2008 however, some contradictions started to emerged in the traditional Spanish political agreement. The first evidence of this came when the PSOE announced an agreement with the PP to change the constitution to cap the budget deficit, one of the first visible austerity measures that came from the EU. The emergence of Podemos and its ongoing attacks against the heritage of the “Spanish Transition”, started to show some signs of a possible weakening of the oligarchy. It was, though, just a temporary illusion.
It wasn’t difficult to imagine what decision the PSOE would take without Sánchez. After days of internal debates, delegates of the PSOE voted to abstain in a confidence vote over a PP government by a margin of 139 to 96.

At the beginning of this month, Spain’s socialist party leader, Pedro Sánchez, resigned from his position after several weeks of dealing with a disgusting internal coup led by the party’s powerful regional leaders. With Pedro Sánchez’s resignation, a crisis committee (a so-called “gestora”) lead by Javier Fernández, was imposed by the internal structure of the party. At that point, it wasn’t difficult to imagine what decision the PSOE would take without Sánchez. After days of internal debates, delegates of the PSOE voted to abstain in a confidence vote over a PP government by a margin of 139 to 96.

More than 300 days of political inactivity and Spanish politicians have proved they are not ready to bring solutions to the citizens and a radical change to a country that is ready for it. They haven’t been able to bring an alternative to the Grand Coalition prevailing in Europe. Javier Fernández’s argument about the abstention being the “lesser evil” option, given that the other option was a third election, doesn’t change the political map of Spain. A country where the more than 5 million of people who voted for the PSOE voted to remove austerity, conservatism, and overall, corruption from their institutions. It’s embarrassing to hear the Socialists’ anguish in their explanation to their voters on why they have betrayed them and chosen abstention. It’s more embarrassing to think that the reason is double: 1) to avoid the third elections that were likely to be devastating for the party, and 2) to keep the power of the oligarchy.

In theory, this fateful abstention of the PSOE could benefit a consolidation of the voters for Podemos. However, the moment to prove it’s evaporating, and the party headed by Pablo Iglesias is also facing its own internal debates represented by Iglesias himself on one side, and Inigo Errejón on the other. Errejón has pointed out that the new government will be “short and weak·”, without a clear agenda for the main issues the country is facing. And here is the key of the drama: for the last 309 days, the political agenda has been hijacked by internal crises in the parties, by endless agreements and debates, by giving the impression that the final objectives were the parties themselves and not implementing their political objectives. Because now, with this almost-ready to govern Grand Coalition, who knows what is its political agenda and policy priorities?

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