Trumpification of the Spanish Right in Madrid

Isabel Díaz Ayuso
Regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Madrid, February 23 (Comunidad de Madrid)

Spanish conservatives hope the third time will be the charm.

In 2018, spooked by the return of the far right, they chose the reactionary Pablo Casado as their leader over the center-right Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. Casado pulled the People’s Party to the right, arguing for a clampdown on Catalan nationalism, lower immigration and tighter abortion laws. Voters didn’t approve. The party fell from 33 to 17 percent support in the election and lost over half its seats in Congress.

In the next election, seven months later, Casado doubled down. He refused to attack far-right leader Santiago Abascal and proposed to criminalize Catalan separatism. The conservatives did better, going up to 21 percent, but they still failed to defeat the Socialists. Abascal’s Vox also increased its vote share, to 15 percent.

The lesson from other European countries is that center-right parties can never outbid the far right, which is always willing to go a step further. Moving to the right in order to shrink the distance between mainstream and far right isn’t a winning strategy either. It makes it easier for conservative voters to switch.

In Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso is nevertheless attempting the same strategy — and she might win. Read more “Trumpification of the Spanish Right in Madrid”

Conservatives Win Battle for Spanish Courts

Supreme Court Madrid Spain
Seat of the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, November 27, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ left-wing government has withdrawn reforms of the body that appoints Spain’s judges, including those of the Supreme Court.

The climbdown is a victory for conservatives, who have for years blocked the appointment and elevation of more progressive judges through their control of the General Council of the Judiciary.

The council’s five-year term expired in December 2018, six months after Sánchez took power from the conservative People’s Party, but it has continued to name judges to Spain’s highest courts.

Supermajorities of three out of five lawmakers are required in both the Congress of Deputies and the Senate to install a new council, giving the center-right People’s Party and far-right Vox (Voice) — which together hold 40 percent of the seats — a veto. Read more “Conservatives Win Battle for Spanish Courts”

Waiting for a Deal in Catalonia

Barcelona Spain
Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor on Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Jorien van der Sluis)

Two months after they expanded their majority in the regional parliament, Catalonia’s pro-independence parties have yet to form a new government.

The separatists for the first time won more than 50 percent of the votes in the election in February. The formerly center-right Together for Catalonia (Junts), which now presents itself as a big tent, lost two seats. But the Republican Left and far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) gained six, giving the three parties, which have governed Catalonia since 2015, a comfortable majority of 74 out of 135 seats.

The Republican Left and CUP quickly did a deal, which would pull the anticapitalists into government for the first time. (They previously supported minority governments of Junts and the Republican Left.)

An agreement with Junts has proved elusive. Read more “Waiting for a Deal in Catalonia”

The Silent Reform of Spanish Pensions

Pablo Iglesias María Jesús Montero José Luis Escrivá
Pablo Iglesias, María Jesús Montero and José Luis Escrivá, the Spanish ministers of social rights, finance and pensions, deliver a news conference in Madrid, May 29, 2020 (La Moncloa)

Spain has a critical and essential employment problem: high chronic unemployment and job insecurity. Both of these are among the key causes of an embarrassing inequality, one of the worst in Europe.

Then, to complicate the solutions, comes the problem of the high public deficit, which has increased over the last decade as an inevitability. A debt aggravated by its dependence on external financing with a bias toward instability. And at the heart of this debt is the chronic deficit accumulated over the last decade in the pension system, which widens its deficit every year. Read more “The Silent Reform of Spanish Pensions”

Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU

Mark Rutte Pedro Sánchez Charles Michel
Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Pedro Sánchez of Spain speak with European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels, July 20, 2020 (European Council)

Less than a year ago, Mark Rutte and Pedro Sánchez were on opposite ends of the debate about the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund. Sánchez and other Southern European leaders called for grants financed by EU-issued bonds. Rutte and his allies preferred loans. The two sides eventually split the difference.

Now the two prime ministers, one center-right, the other center-left, have made common cause for a version of European “strategic autonomy” that is more liberal than Emmanuel Macron’s.

In a joint “non-paper“, the Dutch and Spanish leaders endorse strategic economy as a means to an end — growth and security — but not an end in itself. They caution it mustn’t become an excuse for isolation and protectionism. Read more “Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU”

Spanish Tribulations in Multiparty Democracy

Pablo Iglesias
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias speaks at a rally in Madrid, May 20, 2017 (Podemos)

The rise of new parties on the left, right and center has created new opportunities in Spain: a left-wing minority government that usually relies on the support of Basque and Catalan separatists in Congress, but on rare occasions takes votes from the far-right newcomer Vox (Voice).

It has also created crises, currently in the regions of Madrid and Murcia, where the once-dominant People’s Party (PP) has called snap elections in a bid to shore up the right-wing vote. Read more “Spanish Tribulations in Multiparty Democracy”

Catalan Separatists Close In on Post-Election Deal

Laura Borràs
Laura Borràs presides over the first meeting of the new Catalan parliament in Barcelona, March 12 (Parlament de Catalunya)

Catalonia’s separatist parties, which won a majority in last month’s election, have taken the first step to forming a regional government.

The Republican Left, the formerly center-right Together for Catalonia — which now presents itself as a big tent — and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) have divided up five of the seven seats on the presidium of the new parliament, with the speakership going to Together’s Laura Borràs.

The Republican Left, the biggest party for the first time since the Civil War, has its eyes on the regional presidency. Read more “Catalan Separatists Close In on Post-Election Deal”

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”

Catalan Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Pere Aragonès
Acting Catalan president Pere Aragonès outside the headquarters of his Republican Left party in Barcelona, Spain, 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 (PSOE) shared first place with the separatist Republican Left (ERC) 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”