The enthusiasm borne from having removed the Popular Party and Mariano Rajoy from the government of Spain is fading rapidly, and is starting to give way to fear. There are fears going around that Sánchez and his divided PSOE will fail to seize the opportunity that the ouster of the right-wingers has presented them: to set in motion social and environmental policies that could tap into the surging demand for change in Spanish society. Spaniards want to shift the balance of power and build up the conditions for a left-wing alternative.
These fears are not unfounded. They are clearly emerging even among the executive team announced Wednesday, with which Sánchez intends to govern. What is most disturbing is the resistance to change coming from within the PSOE itself.
It is certainly a positive signal that they have assigned 11 ministries to women, compared to only six to men—at least, it suggests that the Spanish Socialists are aware of the great feminist mobilization that has taken place in Spain over the past year. However, one cannot view in a very positive light the appointment of Borrell to External Affairs, who, with his highly dogmatic positions against the pro-independence Catalans, certainly does not appear to be a confirmation of the renewed dialogue with the new Catalan government that Sanchez had promised in the parliamentary debate on the no confidence motion against Rajoy.
Beyond the composition of the new government, what is really fueling skepticism is Sánchez’s choice to head a minority Socialist-only government that has only 84 seats in parliament. In short, he did not even consider the proposal that Pablo Iglesias had made to him during the debate on the no confidence motion against Rajoy, on behalf of Unidos Podemos, to join a coalition government in which Unidos Podemos would be fully involved. At least a coalition government between the two main forces of the Left would have a base of 155 parliamentary seats, which would not by itself be enough to guarantee a clear majority in the parliament, but the missing votes up to a majority would depend only on the nationalist forces, which would be much more amenable to be won over by a coalition government in which the left-wing parties would work together.
It has become quite clear that only by rebuilding unity between PSOE and Unidos Podemos would it be possible to have the necessary credibility, not only for the desired dialogue on the territorial issue, but above all for the announced radical shift in social and environmental policies compared to the practices of the previous government. Without this shift, it is not possible to change the balance of power towards the Left. The very idea of the Socialist Party going it alone, claiming to have no need, in order to build their project of a new country, of Unidos Podemos, who have given a voice to the new generations in Spain and to the extraordinary movement of the indignados in 2011, only strengthens the impression that the new government will not only be paralyzed by the forces of the Right, but that it will choose voluntarily to steer a safe course and only pursue policies that no one could disagree on.
Both in the parliamentary debate that ousted Rajoy and in these early days of the establishment of the new government, Unidos Podemos have demonstrated that they are acting after careful forethought, in order to advance the cause of unity on the left. They have not set any conditions for giving their vote to the Socialist-led motion of no confidence, and have not made much noise against Sánchez’s announcement that he does not want to amend the 2018 budget already approved by the right-wingers. Not even their choice to set up a minority, Socialist-only government has so far resulted in any clashes between the PSOE and Unidos Podemos. This is a deliberate choice, however, that may not continue for long, and if the Socialists continue to rebuff them this will end up closing off the dialogue. How things stand will be seen in the first decisions taken by the new government.
If the coalition was not possible, a de facto coalition might arise from common programmatic choices. For example, if the new government were to start to give answers to the millions of pensioners who have been protesting in Spanish cities for months in defense of the public pension system and for dignified pensions, this would be an excellent sign of a reversal of past trends, which would be enough to dispel many fears.
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