Now the Hard Part: Convincing the Catalans

Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez listens during a meeting in Madrid, April 12, 2016 (PSOE)

21 seats short of a majority, Spain’s Pedro Sánchez still need either the support or acquiescence of smaller parties to serve a second term as prime minister.

So far, the signs are not encouraging. Read more

Hard Line Against Catalans Doesn’t Help Sánchez in Polls

Pedro Sánchez addresses a conference of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party January 30, 2016
Pedro Sánchez addresses a conference of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party January 30, 2016 (PSOE)

If Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez was hoping that taking a harder line on the Catalan independence crisis would give his Socialist Party a boost in the next election, a look at the polls must give him second thoughts.

Since the Supreme Court convicted nine Catalan separatist leaders of sedition against the Spanish state for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017, support for the Socialists has fallen from 28-29 to 24-25 percent.

The conservative People’s Party is up, from around 20 to 22-23 percent in the last month. The far-right Vox, which got 10 percent in the last election, is up to 13-14 percent.

Elections are due on November 10. Read more

Sánchez Needs to Show Statesmanship in Catalonia

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Demonstrations for Catalan independence have always have been peaceful — until Tuesday, when a sit-in outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona led to acts of vandalism and altercations with riot police.

While most separatists, who were protesting the long prison sentences given to their leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court, left around dinner time, some donned masks and threw bottles and firecrackers at police. Later in the evening, trash cans were set on fire and barricades erected on the Passeig de Gràcia, a luxury shopping street. It took until early Wednesday morning to clear the avenue.

The knee-jerk reaction from the Spanish right is to clamp down. Pablo Casado, the leader of the largest right-wing party in Congress, has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a social democrat, to declare an emergency and take command of the Catalan regional police.

That is the worst thing he could do. Tensions are running high. The mossos (troopers) are at least seen as fellow Catalans by most protesters. Send in the National Police or the gendarmerie and the riots are bound to get worse.

Let Sánchez come to Barcelona instead, meet with members of the regional government and start listening to their demands; something he promised to do when he came to power a year ago, but still hasn’t.

This will be seen as weakness in other parts of Spain, where there isn’t a culture of compromise and consensus, but it will signal to Catalans that Madrid is finally taking them seriously. Read more

Sánchez Is the Reasonable Choice in Spain’s Election

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrives in Salzburg, Austria for a meeting with other European socialist party leaders, September 19, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrives in Salzburg, Austria for a meeting with other European socialist party leaders, September 19, 2018 (PES)

As long as Spain’s mainstream right would rather do a deal with the far right than the center-left, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ Socialists are the most reasonable choice in the country’s general election on Sunday.

Sánchez’ only possible partners are the far-left Podemos and regionalists from the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Catalonia and Valencia. Even if, as the polls predict, the Socialists expand their plurality in Congress, the next coalition government could be unwieldy.

Podemos will require concessions and its platform is full of unwise proposals, from abolishing spy agencies to nationalizing energy companies to withdrawing from international trade deals.

If the regionalists end up as kingmakers, they can be expected to leverage their position to extract more money from Madrid. The two largest parties in Catalonia insist they will only back Sánchez if he comes out in favor of a legal independence referendum. Sánchez insists he won’t.

But those complications are preferable to the alternative: a hard-right government that would need the Franco apologists in Vox for its majority and exacerbate the separatist crisis in Catalonia by once again suspending self-government in this part of Spain. Read more

Spain’s Sánchez Seals Spending Deal with Far Left

Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has negotiated a spending deal with the far-left Podemos party that could keep him in power for another year.

Sánchez’ Socialist Workers’ Party does not have a majority of its own. In addition to Podemos, it leans on the support of regional parties in the Spanish Congress.

Some of them have mounted a challenge, though: the Catalans have proposed trading their support for a legal and binding referendum on Catalan independence. Sánchez has ruled that out.

He may just get his budget through if one of the Catalan parties abstains and parties from other regions vote with him. But it will be tight. Read more

Don’t Bet Against Pedro Sánchez Yet

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez gives a speech in parliament in Madrid, September 12
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez gives a speech in parliament in Madrid, September 12 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

The Spanish right is taking Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to task for the unrest in his minority left-wing government.

First Sánchez lost his minister for culture and sports, Màxim Huerta, after it emerged he had been fined for tax fraud.

Then his health minister, Carmen Montón, was forced to resign for obtaining a Master’s degree seemingly without attending any classes.

Now Sánchez himself is accused of plagiarizing his PhD thesis.

Meanwhile, his government has yet to pass a 2019 budget with the deadline one month away. Read more

Sánchez Has the Right Idea: A Referendum on Catalan Home Rule

Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9
Catalan president Quim Torra is welcomed by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, July 9 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has proposed calling a referendum on a renegotiated statute for Catalan home rule.

In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court rewrote parts of Catalonia’s 2006 autonomy statute. Most of the changes were minor, except they limited Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy and took out the description of Catalonia as a “nation”.

As a result, Sánchez said in a radio interview, “Catalonia has a statute that it didn’t vote for.”

78 percent of Catalan voters ratified the 2006 statute in a referendum. Read more