The European Commission, represented by the spokeswoman Mina Andreeva, congratulated yesterday the outgoing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “for having obtained the highest number of seats.” It’s a skillful diplomatic balancing act: The People’s Party, or PP, “won,” but only by a little. Beyond the official statements, it is no secret that Brussels will cheer for continuity and desired a rematch of what happened in Portugal, where the outgoing conservative government was ousted by a leftist anti-austerity alliance. Despite the fact that the conservative party of former Prime Minister Passos Coelho got the most votes.
The narrative that austerity “works” and “is appreciated by voters” urgently requires that the PP remain on Madrid’s saddle. Perhaps with the help of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, in a pattern that would remember the great coalition government of Germany and the E.U. itself.
In Berlin, they are rooting for a big Iberian Grand Coalition Iberian, a formula that would take power away from the troublemakers of Podemos: the No. 1 goal of Merkel, and also of the Social Democratic Party, is to avoid having to deal with a third country with a progressive agenda, Greece and Portugal being the others.
So the German chancellor and her colleagues should not be too concerned. The chances that Podemos will set up a coalition government are minimal. Despite the big slap to the PP, the fight against austerity is not at the center of the Spanish debate: The key issue is the “diagonal” line between the territorial order and constitutional reforms.
In recent months, it should be recognized that, unfortunately, in Spain the search for “a new Europe’ has lost momentum.
Viewed from a continental perspective, the outcome of last Sunday’s elections is, therefore, a mixed result. The voters have certainly rewarded the supporters of austerity, but on the other hand there was not even an overturning comparable to last January’s victory of SYRIZA in Greece.
Madrid will therefore not gain a central position similar to Athens, at least until the dramatic events of the summer. There will be no passing of the torch: The Iberian country is not shaping a leading role in Europe, but rather a period of introspection, looking for an easy solution to the puzzle of regional planning of the state, between independence and neo-centralist pressure.
The hope, for those who watch “from outside” and have been fighting for an end to neoliberal policies, is that Podemos can withstand the impact of the contradictions of the early months of parliamentary life, and will be able to bring back to the center of public debate the reasons behind its creation and its success.
One way to do it is to join the efforts of the Portuguese government to escape the Troika, and to emphasize the political work of local “changing“ authorities, starting from Madrid and Barcelona.
From this point of view, the vote on Sunday is comforting: where Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau govern, the results are very good.
Austerity can be beaten even from the cities.