Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump

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

I’ve been a fan of Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion, which was founded to resist the illiberal turn in American media. The newsletter deliberately publishes analysis and commentary from across the political spectrum to make it readers think. I’ve disagreed with several pieces, and that’s the point.

This is the first time I’m disappointed by one.

Mounk has published a hit piece that makes Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a mainstream social democrat, out to be the greatest threat to Spanish democracy since Francisco Franco! Read more “Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump”

Draghi Understands What Italy Needs

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi waves at reporters outside the Palazzo Chigi in Rome, February 13 (Governo Italiano)

Mario Draghi is off to a good start. The former central banker has won the support of Italy’s major political parties to form a government and he understands the reforms it needs to undertake.

His challenge will be convincing the parties to see those reforms through.

Receiving more than €200 billion from the EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund should help. A chunk of the money will go to vaccinating Italy’s population of 60 million, but there will be more than enough left over to invest in long-term growth.

Money isn’t everything, though. Bringing Italy’s economy back to life after it shrunk almost 9 percent in 2020 will require making the sort of choices its politicians have avoided for years. Read more “Draghi Understands What Italy Needs”

Catalan Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Pere Aragonès
Acting Catalan president Pere Aragonès outside the headquarters of his Republican Left party in Barcelona, January 10 (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya/Marc Puig)

The Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party shared first place with the separatist Republican Left in regional elections on Sunday, but the unionist camp as a whole lost support relative to pro-independence parties.

Both the Republican and Socialist party leaders have announced they will put themselves forward as candidates for the regional presidency.

The Republican candidate, Pere Aragonès, is most likely to succeed. Read more “Catalan Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next”

Republicans, Socialists Share First Place in Catalonia

Palau de la Generalitat Barcelona Spain
The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain at night (iStock/Tomas Sereda)
  • The Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party shared first place with the separatist Republican Left in regional elections on Sunday.
  • Pro-independence parties won 74 out of 135 seats, up four. The parties have governed since 2012.
  • The Republican Left and Socialists would also have a majority with the left-wing Catalonia in Common-Podem.
  • The far-right Vox entered Catalonia’s parliament for the first time, but the right as a whole lost twenty seats.
  • Turnout was 54 percent, the lowest since the restoration of democracy. Read more “Republicans, Socialists Share First Place in Catalonia”

Catalan Election Guide

Barcelona Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalans vote in regional elections on Sunday that are unlikely to produce a breakthrough in their region’s acrimonious relations with the rest of Spain.

I’ll be live-blogging the results on Sunday night. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Catalan Election Guide”

Three-Way Race for First Place in Catalonia

Salvador Illa
Spanish health minister Salvador Illa listens to a debate in parliament in Madrid, October 28, 2020 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

Pro-independence parties are projected to defend their majority in the Catalan parliament on Sunday, but the regional branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party could place first in the election.

The Catalan Socialists, led by former health minister Salvador Illa, who resigned from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ cabinet two weeks ago to campaign, are polling at 21-23 percent, up from 14 percent in the last regional election and 20.5 percent in the last national election.

The Socialists and their allies in the far-left Podemos (We Can), who have 6-8 percent support, oppose Catalan independence but do want to give the region more autonomy. Although talks about transferring more power to Barcelona are still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Read more “Three-Way Race for First Place in Catalonia”

Italy Shouldn’t Need Draghi

Mario Draghi
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi walks to a news conference in Frankfurt, October 25, 2018 (ECB/Martin Lamberts)

It’s not an endorsement of Italian democracy that the country needs another above-the-fray technocrat to pull it out of the mud.

If Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, wins the support of parliament, three of the last six Italian prime ministers will have been apolitical appointees.

I hope Ferdinando Giugliano is right and Draghi will succeed where his predecessors failed, but recent history — and Giugliano points this out too — does not inspire confidence. Neither Mario Monti nor Giuseppe Conte was able break the political logjam to enact much-needed reforms. Read more “Italy Shouldn’t Need Draghi”

Far Right Comes to Sánchez’ Rescue in Spain

Santiago Abascal
Spanish Vox party leader Santiago Abascal gives a speech in Valencia, February 22, 2018 (Vox España)

Sometimes bad people do good things. Spain’s neo-Francoist party Vox (Voice) has given Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez a majority for his plan to spend Spain’s €140 billion share of the EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund.

Vox had criticized the plan for its “opaque” oversight during a debate in Congress, but when it became clear the conservative People’s Party (PP) would vote against it, the far right spied an opportunity.

“We regret that in the worst moment of these 42 years of democracy, PP is not the opposition but the absolute destruction,” a Vox spokesman thundered.

That’s a little rich coming from a party that wants to reverse Spain’s democratization in important ways, including by abolishing regional autonomies, teaching a more Franco-friendly version of twentieth-century history in middle schools and weakening women’s rights.

But it is also an example of how multiparty democracy can make a country more governable. Read more “Far Right Comes to Sánchez’ Rescue in Spain”

Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again

Matteo Renzi
Then-Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Rome, December 10, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has pulled the plug on the country’s ruling center-left coalition.

Renzi, now a senator, has withdrawn his 48 lawmakers and three ministers (one junior) from the coalition ostensibly over a spending dispute. He wants to use Italy’s €200+ billion share of the European Union’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund to invest in infrastructure and the green economy. The other ruling parties prefer to use the bulk of the money for short-term stimulus.

Renzi has also proposed to tap into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up in the wake of the euro crisis, to help pay for Italy’s increased health-care spending, something Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resisted. ESM funding would come with strings attached. Countries are free to spend their share of the coronavirus recovery fund however they see fit.

Renzi’s proposals have merit. Italy is failing its next generation. It needs structural reforms — which ESM support would require — to catch up with the rest of Europe. Spending €200 billion to prop up the Italian economy in the short term is a wasted opportunity.

But expecting the other ruling parties to meet his terms, when Renzi’s is by far the smallest of the three, is unreasonable. Throwing Italy into a political crisis when it is still suffering one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the world is irresponsible.

Conte must now find a new majority in parliament, perhaps with members of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, or call early elections. Read more “Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again”

Gibraltar Brexit Deal is Victory for Spain

Gibraltar
View of the Rock of Gibraltar from the territory’s airport, September 29, 2015 (Shutterstock/Nigel Jarvis)

Gibraltar is joining the Schengen free-travel area and will accept European border guards in its ports.

The agreement, reached shortly before New Year’s between the governments of Britain and Spain, avoids the need for a hard border and pulls the Rock closer into the European Union than it was before.

It is a victory for Spanish nationalists, who have long dreamed of regaining a foothold in Gibraltar after three centuries of British rule.

Accomplished, ironically, by a left-wing government. Read more “Gibraltar Brexit Deal is Victory for Spain”