With a year to go before the general elections, the political future of Spain is more open than ever and presents three intense areas of competition
Spanish politics resembles Yugoslav basketball at times. Fast and nervous pace, with a constantly moving marker that does not offer a clear winner until the last moment. At the end of the eighties, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had excellent basketball teams spread throughout its geography. In Croatia, Jugoplastika from Split, Zadar and Cibona from Zagreb. In Serbia: Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade. In Slovenia, Olimpja from Ljubljana. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosna Sarajevo. The Rabotnički in Macedonia. The Yugoslav national team was among the best in the world, disputing teams from the United States and the Soviet Union for primacy, a selection in which Lithuanian players stood out. Yugoslavia was the great promise for the Barcelona Olympic Games and something terrible happened.
Any analogy with politics must be cautious. In terms of quality, it is not certain that Spanish politics today has as good a bench as the Yugoslav basketball team at the end of the eighties. Individuals are not lacking, but the average fails. Yes, there is a similarity in the dynamics: the plays follow one another very quickly, personal fouls abound and the score does not quite indicate a final winner. We will have to wait for the end of the contest. With a year to go before the general elections –within twelve months we will surely be in a regulation campaign- the political future of Spain is more open than ever and presents three intense areas of competition.
The competition between Vox and PP has returned, which Alberto Núñez Feijóo seemed to be resolving in his favor between spring and summer, after the regional elections in Andalusia. Vox has returned to the fore this week with a very calculated offensive of political aggressiveness in Congress, an offensive that will continue, resorting to the ‘Bannon manual’, the instruction book of Trumpism. After the bump in the Andalusian elections, Vox returns to attract the most conservative voters who had turned to the Popular Party after the removal of Pablo Casado. There is once again a transfer of votes from the PP to Vox, electoral analysts point out. Alberto Núñez Feijóo has a problem: no player can be doubtful in the middle of a Yugoslavian basketball game.
Perhaps the main competition arena, the most complex and uncertain, is the one disputed by the Popular Party and the PSOE in pursuit of the so-called ‘centre’ voter, a traditional middle-class voter who oscillates between the two big parties depending on the economic and environmental circumstances of the country. The great initial success of Núñez Feijóo consisted of entering strongly in that strip. In the summer it was estimated that more than half a million PSOE voters in the last general elections were willing to vote for a more focused PP. The new leader of the PP disappointed these voters by breaking off unexpectedly –and very poorly explained- the negotiations for the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary. Those voters would have applauded a state pact between the two big parties. Now it will be necessary to see how those voters react to the modification of the Criminal Code to replace the crime of sedition with another criminal type.
Pedro Sánchez reacted in September by pressing the accelerator in European politics. He managed to link his initiatives abroad to problems at home. For example, the Iberian cap on the price of gas (the gas that is used to manufacture electricity), initially ridiculed by popular supporters and today turned into a reference for other European countries. In electoral terms, the autumn has been favorable for the coalition government, which has just approved the general state budget for 2023, without setbacks. The third consecutive budget in three years. A triple.
Sánchez seems to be making the most of the fiscal and social measures adopted by the Government in recent months to deal with the rise in energy prices and the inflationary spiral. Foreign policy activism seems to pay off. Yesterday he was elected president of the Socialist International. Vote transfers from the PSOE to the PP have been significantly reduced in the last three months. But winter has just begun and serious problems are observed on the left side.
Indeed, the third field of competition unfolds on the left side, where internal problems are increasingly evident in the United We Can coalition. Yolanda Díaz does not want to submit to the dictates of Podemos, and what remains of this party, the great novelty of Spanish politics in the last eight years, does not want to dissolve like a sugar cube within the movement advocated by the second vice president under the heading Add. Personal relationships between the main leaders of United We Can begin to suffer. Some reproaches have already been made public. The cubist cadre is presided over by the tenacious media activism of former Vice President Pablo Iglesias, who directs the strategic lines of Podemos from outside the Government, at the head of a digital platform in the growth phase. The mosaic is fragmenting and the D’Hond law penalizes splits. One and one do not add up to four in the Spanish electoral system, which is very demanding for smaller parties. If Unidas Podemos splits, it will hardly be the third political force in any provincial constituency.
Only a pact between the movement advocated by Yolanda Díaz and the party led by Ione Belarra and Irene Montero can avoid an electoral split with very uncertain consequences. Montero is being eroded by the application problems posed by the Law of Comprehensive Guarantee of Sexual Freedom, but the savage attack from the extreme right against it, wins him sympathy. The left cannot leave her alone.
The clinical history of the PSOE left indicates that this type of turbulence usually ends in a fight and a split. That fate turned the PCE, the decisive party in the transition, into a marginal political formation from 1982. History could repeat itself. The PSOE, a great beneficiary of the eclipse of the PCE forty years ago, is now seriously concerned. If his ally disintegrates, the formation of a parliamentary majority led by the Socialist Party in the next legislature will be very difficult, if not impossible. Will they be able to negotiate a deal? Are they predisposed to the agreement or have they already burned the ships?
These three competition scenarios will evolve in a context of great uncertainty dominated by the war in Ukraine and its economic consequences. Nobody knows what next winter will be like, but we do know that in twelve months there will be elections in Spain. Twelve months of Yugoslav basketball.
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