Political uncertainty after the Spanish general elections

angela-100x100by Angela Muñoz Aroca

 

Spain lived the last 20th December an historic moment, as many national and international media have rightly highlighted. For the first time in our history in democracy, there were more than two parties with chances to gain power, threatening the reigning bipartisan system that has characterised Spanish politics since we entered into an era of transition and a multiparty system was stablished. The slogan used by one of the emergent parties –Ciutadans in Catalonian where it first appears, Ciudadanos at the national level or Citizens if translated into English-, can rightly described the feelings of the population that Sunday. With the sentence `vote with illusion´, Spanish people were the protagonists of an election characterised by the high level of participation and that had as a result the aperture to new political forces.

The new political reality is due to several reasons that have dramatically reduced the support to the traditional centre-right and centre-left Spanish parties, PP and PSOE, respectively. Amongst them are the economic crisis and all its related budgetary cuts in health and education, added to the never decreasing unemployment and the polemics related to several cases of political corruption that have marked the last couple of years of political life. In this context, two political parties emerged from the civil society as an alternative to the main ones, Podemos and Ciudadanos. The symptoms of a new era of changes were already evident during the electoral campaign, when political debates took part amongst the four different forces in a less agreed way and driven by the public and journalists, instead of its more institutionalise and traditional face-to-face version between two political leaders with the journalists acting just as moderators.

These changes were opposed at first by some political forces, in special by the party in power, which declined to collaborate in a debate with representatives of the three other forces and finally was solely represented by the vice-president in a last and definite public speech on TV. Despite difficulties, the electoral results of the 20th of December have confirmed the will of the citizens to open up to new alternatives by giving new parties a say in the Spanish politics by rewarding them with an impressive citizenship support.

Nevertheless, after the elections what reigns in Spain is a feeling of uncertainty. With a highly fragmented parliament and with no political force summing a majority, it is not clear who will be in charge of the Congress or who will be the next president of Spain. Accordingly, despite the conservative party has won in votes the elections it has been with a minority, and it is no clear who will support his candidature for the coming legislature. The next step is to find political support from the other forces, mainly the socialist party and the two emergent ones, to assure the election of the president, what implies that the parties with greatest parliamentary representation do not oppose the candidate. As it has been already suggested, this task will be especially difficult for the president in functions, Mariano Rajoy, who after four years of parliamentary majority has been able to evaluate and pass controversial laws without negotiating and even with the opposition of the other political forces, such as banning abortion or limiting the civil rights of the citizens to demonstrate, amongst others.

In this context, forces such as Podemos, a left party that has been particularly incisive in his critics to the party in power, has obviously reassured his opposition to a new legislature of the conservative party. By their part, despite the socialist and the liberal parties, PSOE and Ciudadanos, have declared their intentions to let the conservative party create a government, PSOE has also denied the possibility to support his candidature by any means. This position is reasonable if we attend to the particular position of the socialist leader, Pedro Sanchez, who has publically called the conservative leader `indecent´ because of his soft position towards some corruption cases. Sanchez has even suggested the possibility to lead a left wing coalition if Rajoy fails to find supporters. Nevertheless, despite the possibility of governing under coalitions, this option has been continuously denied by all the political forces during the electoral campaign, condition that may change after the electoral results.

In this sense, amongst the possible unions are a political coalition of the conservatives and the liberals, which would not provide them either with the majority necessary to govern; or a left coalition composed by the socialists, Podemos and other nationalist regional forces with parliamentary representation, such as the Basque PNV or the Catalonian Democracia y Libertad. These options are nevertheless unclear. On the one hand, the Socialist Party has declared its opposition to negotiate with forces that imposes as a red line a referendum for Catalonia, directly referring to Podemos; while the regional nationalist forces such as Bildu or Esquerra Republicana have repeatedly denied their support to the socialist party, which has been accused by these forces of being corrupt and of having lost is political left orientation.

On the other hand, Podemos has suggested the possibility to create a left coalition if the socialist leader is replaced by an independent leader, option that has been labelled as possible in `a Bolivarian pseudo-democracy´ but unthinkable in a mature democracy as the Spanish one, by the conservative party. Divisions are also a continuum within the parties and while the leader of the socialist party has publically consider a coalition with Podemos, regional forces such as the one of the autonomous community Andalusia, which has provided the socialist party with one of its biggest representation in the Congress, has warned of the danger that such an option could infer.

This situation is not solely confusing at the national level, with all Spanish people celebrating Christmas without knowing who will be their next president for the first time in history and if it will be possible to have such a thing within the current political environment, but also to our neighbouring authorities, which have had difficulties to express their support to any political leader. Accordingly, while the European Commission has already congratulated Rajoy for his majority at the ballot boxes, official forces in Germany have no clue to whom should be congratulated in this case. In the meanwhile, the remote possibility of ending up in new general elections has been widely opposed by the population, with more than 60% of the voters opposing this option and with more than 80% of them affirming their intention to repeat their election if such situation arrives; what would not solve the institutional leverage of our political reality.

Thus, if agreements are not achieved and the political forces are not able to bargain and come to a consensus, even if deals have to be achieved for every political area independently, Spain risks to follow the paths of Catalonia, which is lacking a government for more than three months due to the lack of consensus amongst the forces to invest a president. Nevertheless, this apocalyptic option is the last one and it is also on the detriment of the parties, which may see this option as a risk for their already scarce support and which prefer to come to agreements to coordinate their interests. This declaration of good intentions is in special important if we take into account that this new political reality threats to have come to stay, and it is likely that parliamentary minorities will be our common denominator from now onwards. This fact would imply that more complex governmental agreements based on concessions and protections of interests and a stronger expression of democracy, plurality and effectiveness will need to be shown by our politicians and interiorized by the citizens.

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