THE OBSERVER

Countdown

Spain has shown its inability to bring together different parties to form a coalition government

10. Pedro Sánchez’s failed bid to be confirmed as prime minister of Spain is evidence that political dialogue is becoming increasingly rare. Once again, Spain has shown its inability to bring together different parties to form a coalition government. Alliances fall apart, negotiation is still perceived as a sort of shameful concession and getting the upper hand is akin to having carte blanche to humiliate. Hubris is one of the most useless characteristics of Spanish politics. A parliamentary session that might have led to a new government in a country whose legislature has failed to pass a new budget, instead showcased its worst attributes: a lack of respect for one’s opponent, the inability to engage in good faith negotiations and a desire to smash and subjugate even one’s partner.

PM Pedro Sánchez negotiated as if he didn’t want an agreement and his strategy of approaching the PP and Ciudadanos hoping to win their abstention was extremely difficult to accept, considering the opposition’s bitter criticisms. As Sánchez busied himself with trying to expose the right whilst wooing the PP on the Catalan issue, he underestimated the challenges posed by coalition talks and the need not to burn any bridges with those whose support he was hoping to garner. Catalonia and the upcoming verdict of the trial against the Catalan independence leaders is a stumbling block for Pedro Sánchez. He does not want the pro-independence parties to cosy up to Podemos —Pablo Iglesias’ party was quick to deny any chance of that— and the Spanish PM is afraid of the PP and Ciudadanos’ reaction, now that they have bought into Vox’s far-right narrative.

In the PSOE there has been a sigh of relief by some who are hoping that a new [splinter] party led by Errejón might do enough damage to Podemos in some key constituencies to actually wipe them out. Others still believe that Podemos will agree to back a socialist government without entering into a coalition. Pedro Sánchez —and he is not alone— dreams of an agreement with the main parties in Spain that will absorb the institutional shock caused by the verdict.

9. By removing himself from the discussion, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias raised the price of a coalition government, but he was unable to seize the opportunity to use his party’s cabinet seats as a springboard. The audacity Iglesias allegedly displayed when he requested in parliament to be given the employment promotion powers devolved to the regional governments was on a par with Sánchez offering him the Health ministry, an office devoid of any obligations in a country where health care is fully devolved to the regional administrations. Politics will never be an (exact) science due to the human factor in any negotiation, and the contempt which the main Spanish political actors feel for one another is a factor that must be taken into account.

8. “What did I miss?” asked an ERC voter after hearing Gabriel Rufián’s address in the Spanish parliament. It is hard to believe that the controversial ERC lawmaker, known for his gimmicks in the Spanish lower chamber, has morphed into this pragmatic statesman who is willing to pave the way for Pedro Sánchez. Were it not for his posts on Twitter, you would think that ERC has succeeded in its strategy to occupy the political centre and become the main voice of the pro-independence movement. However, credibility requires consistency and evidence of a predictable strategy beyond anecdotal witticisms; so Rufián will need time.

7. JuntsxCat spokesperson Laura Borràs has an iron fist in a velvet glove. Her group has ditched the more agreeable Convergència lawmakers, but their new strategy has not proven successful yet.

6. Dithyrambic Spain. Rivera and Arrimadas have brought their crass antics and bad form to Spain’s political arena. PP leader Pablo Casado can barely conceal his glee as his free-falling opponent offers him a state pact. In Germany they might be working behind the scenes for the sake of the economy, European policies and revamping the pension system. But only imposing direct rule on Catalonia [back in 2017] has ever managed to bring together Spain’s Grosse Koalition. Catalonia and the verdict might unite them again just yet.

5. Vox, who are not ashamed of their fascist leanings, had the gall to quote Miguel de Unamuno. A book by Luciano G. Egido, Agonizar en Salamanca [Agonizing in Salamanca], comes to mind. It tells the story of how the 1936 fascist uprising turned Salamanca —the city where Unamuno (the rector of the local university) lived— into a living hell. The author provides an account of Unamuno’s last months as a man whose intimate contradictions first prompted him to side with the rebels, but was later nauseated by their repression, ignorance and fascistic hatred. Speaking in front of Millán-Astray —a top Francoist general— in the university’s main hall, Unamuno uttered his well-known remark: “You will prevail, but you won’t persuade”.

4. In answer to a VilaWeb article, Jordi Sànchez has written that he’s “bloody had enough of seeing us prisoners being used”. In tomorrow’s interview with ARA, the former ANC president reflects on the role of the independence leaders and states that “the problem with the pro-independence movement is not so much that there are different viewpoints, but the lack of a strategic and tactical outlook”. “Perhaps we will be in a better position to plot a new course once a verdict has been handed down”, he says.

3. The latest poll by Catalonia’s CEO reflects the shifting leadership within the pro-independence camp and how support for independence would allegedly drop in a hypothetical referendum. The verdict will be the next litmus test for Catalan society.

2. Boris Johnson is an eccentric, but he’s not an idiot. The UK has returned to the standstill between the government and parliament, while the countdown for a no-deal Brexit is ticking away. Theresa May may be gone, but the problem remains the same.

1. ARA cartoonist Miquel Ferreres has published a collection of his works on the trial of the Catalan leaders. He depicts reality with the finesse only the very best commentators are capable of.

0. Decompression.