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Elections. The Spanish Socialist party must strike a balance between the old guard and the powers pushing for a “grand coalition.”

In Spain, the dilemma of the Socialists

One out of four Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, or PSOE, voters is Andalusian. These data show the hardships of the Spanish Socialist party after Sunday’s vote. Secretary Pedro Sánchez can do nothing without the consent of Susana Díaz, leader of the party in the vast southern region, where she is the powerful governor. And the ambitious Díaz wants everything except for the Socialists to embark in the difficult attempt to form a “neo-Zapatero” government, with the support of Podemos and Catalan nationalists. To clarify any possible doubts, yesterday she reiterated it bluntly: “The people wanted us as the opposition.” A result that “must open a debate” within the party, which has “held” only in the Comunidad she leads (31.5 percent, nine points above the national average). Sánchez is warned.

And then, must the Conservatives govern? Díaz does not say so. She knows that the Socialist followers see this hypothesis as wool over the eyes, and she does not make the imprudence to say that, in her opinion, the PSOE should abstain in the vote of investiture thus allowing Mariano Rajoy’s re-election: She has publicly defended the official line, namely the “no” to the outgoing premier. No PSOE officer — apart from the old guard — can afford to say something different at this stage.

The participation of the Andalusian leader is key to untangle the tangled skein that came out of the polls. It is not at all impossible to foresee that Díaz is already preparing herself to head the Socialist lists in any new elections. It is a possible scenario, perhaps even likely: if the political forces maintain the current positions, it will be the required outcome. Many want another election, except for Ciudadanos. The People’s Party, PP, could sacrifice its current leader Rajoy and present the current deputy Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, a considerably cooler figure. And the PSOE could do the same, replacing Sánchez with the charismatic Díaz. Podemos could incorporate Izquierda Unida, headed by the young leader Alberto Garzón, who has always advocated a unitary list, following the lines of those winning in Catalonia and Galicia. The only ones who would risk to lose, would be the “anti-caste” Liberals led by Albert Rivera: their 13.9 percent has placed them one step below the three “big” parties, the PP, PSOE and Podemos, and many voters — with a mixed ideologically profile — may abandon them and prefer one of the three forces with real chances of becoming the first party.

The skilled Rivera knows it, and he is the one insisting that “the legislature must begin to form a government.” He has already announced that his group will support the investiture of Rajoy and he requests the PSOE to do the same. The influential newspaper El País, the voice of the centrist establishment, pushes in this direction: “The new political pluralism creates a wonderful opportunity to get closer to the democracies in the rest of Europe, with the formation of a grand coalition government of the conservatives, Socialists and liberals,” the political scientist Josep Colomer wrote in an editorial yesterday. It can be predicted that this will be the leitmotif of the coming weeks: “This is how it is done in Europe.” As appropriate, the ghosts of the instability of the Second Republic that preceded the Civil War, and the myth of the “consent” of the post-Franco transition as its antidote, will be agitated against the “chaos risk.”

However, no one knows what could be the common base on a phase of “broad agreement.” Not the economy, because the PSOE would commit political suicide if it accepted any measure of austerity: José Luis Zapatero already paid the tribute to the “salvation of the public accounts.” Not regional planning, because the PP does not want to change anything, while the Socialists propose federalism. Not the electoral law, which is fine as it is according to Conservatives, while the Socialists and centrists would make it more proportional (nothing but Italicum). The conditions for a “constituent” legislature are not there, and “technical” governments are not the style of the Spanish democracy. They were instead aligned with the dictatorship: Franco despised “politics” and at the end of the ‘50s, he gave away governance to a group of technocrats (linked to Opus Dei), in order to facilitate the flow of international loans.

The thrust of the European chancelleries and the turmoil of the markets could be the key factors of a possible “emergency government” based on broad agreements. The Bank of Spain, through its official bulletin issued yesterday, warns against the risk that the new political landscape may block the “reform agenda” on which “growth expectations depend.” They can vote, but they should not change course: the Spanish are warned.