Spanish politics a real 'Game of Thrones'

By Cristina Font Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/8 11:27:38

On Friday, June 1, Spaniards observed how history was made. It was not only that the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was forced out, losing a no-confidence vote triggered by a corruption scandal — but also after 40 years of democracy it was the first time that the Congress did change the administration. Also, it is the first time that the prime minister's party doesn't have a majority as well as the first time that the prime minister doesn't have a seat in the Congress and finally it is also the first time that there is a prime minister who doesn't have the presidency of the Congress.

In less than a week, the political situation turned 180 degrees. Nowadays, an old traveler wouldn't be able to recognize the new Spain. Indeed, the onlooker would feel like the screenwriters of 'House of Cards' or 'Game of Thrones' with a magic pen were writing the 'Game of Moncloa's plot'. There are all the elements of a Hollywood production: the hero and his allies, the band of bad guys, the people who wait for the hero to appear on screen, conspiracies. But what about this so-called Mr Handsome, is he the new hero? Well, we can at least be assured of one thing — his biography is so impressive that we would doff our hat to him.

In 2015, Pedro Sánchez tried to reach to the Moncloa and failed because the leader of the socialist party did not get the support of the two new parties, PODEMOS, and Cs. Due to their respective political and electoral interests, the two leaders Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera proved incompatible in investing Sánchez as president of the Government. After the general elections of 2016, and despite achieving the worst electoral result in the history of his party, and only with 84 Socialist deputies, Sánchez wanted to try again. But he was not allowed by most of the regional presidents and socialist referents, who ended up forcing his resignation as secretary general in the convulsive federal committee on October 1, 2016. As a result, and not having to facilitate with his vote the investiture of Mariano Rajoy (right-wing leader) with the abstention decided by the manager of his party, Sánchez also opted to resign his seat in Congress.

Against all odds, Sánchez regained the position of general secretary of the socialist party in the primaries on May 21, 2017, that is, a year ago, when many had already taken him for politically dead — "nobody gave a penny to my candidacy", he admitted.

Prime minister Pedro Sánchez is not only a phoenix that rises from its ashes but also a political byproduct of the European convulsion. The global financial crisis in 2008 brought to Europe a new scenario. A growing social mobilization through the continent against the management of the crisis by governments and its effects on citizens. 

The protests were common to almost all of Europe, but their ideologies, intensity, and effects varied in countries. Generally, creditor countries such as Germany, Holland, the Scandinavian nations, were on one side of the balance while the southern European countries and Ireland were on the other side. France and the UK found themselves suffering the crisis but not reaching a state of bankruptcy. The economic situation gave rise to new parties with a less conventional understanding of economic and political solutions while the traditional parties came together to face the new threat.

Specifically, the anti-austerity movement in Spain, also referred to as the 15-M Movement, started on May 15, 2011, close to local and regional elections. Demonstrators protested steep welfare cuts, high unemployment, Spanish politicians and their corrupt practices , dysfunctional political institutions, and its two-party system. As a result, the crisis in traditional parties led new parties to get into the national ring. With Cs and PODEMOS, the two-party system became a multi-party system.  The core characteristic of the two new-born parties is their non-conventional ideological stance. They defined themselves neither as right-wing nor left-wing.

So, the latest events in Spain shouldn't shock anyone since the weft yarn dates back seven years. Moreover, prime minister Pedro Sánchez is sharing the focus with the Italian incumbent government these days. However, they are not alike. Spain's multi-party institution has not brought on a phenomenon resembling Italy's Five Star Movement, let alone an anti-immigrant, far-right party akin to the League. Nor is euroscepticism a force in Spain. It is a measure of the pro-european consensus in Madrid that Pedro Sánchez has promised to embrace the restrained 2018 budget that was recently approved.

Many wonder what will happen next in Spain but no one dares to guess. Anyway, what is certain is that the new socialist government must act quickly. There's no time for a period of transition.In some days, almost 1,500 people will leave office and newcomers will come in. The outgoing party will carry on a policy of attrition from day one in order to force early national elections. The new prime minister needs to get ready to fight back or these seven years waiting for a change will end up at a glance.

The author is a foreign policy analyst based in Europe (Spain). @cfontharo

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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