Spain to vote on Sunday and difficult alliances: why does a worthy leader like Sánchez run the risk of clearly losing the elections?

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By Chicago 8 Min Read

THE
Sunday’s vote is important not only because Spain is a great country, our Latin sister. It is important because the scheme that could emerge victorious from the polls is, or appears to be, that of Giorgia Meloni: the alliance between the popular and the conservatives. And in fact it is very probable that the centre-right will prevail. But it will be a difficult alliance. Whose keys are not in the hands of Meloni’s man, Santiago Abascal – whom the prime minister confidentially calls Santi in the greeting message – but in those of the probable next head of government: a moderate, a centrist, a Christian Democrat like Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

Feijóo is the historic president of Galicia, the region where all the leaders of the Spanish right of the twentieth century were trained. Starting with Francisco Franco, Galician from Ferrol, who is now no longer called Ferrol del Caudillo, and where his equestrian statue has been removed from the main square to be prudently kept in the arsenal. Also from Galicia were Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Franco’s minister and founder of the popular party, and Mariano Rajoy, the last centre-right prime minister. Men who are prudent and, if necessary, ferocious. Feijóo isn’t the outgoing type either; but he is not an extremist. Faced with deciding whether to go after the Vox radicals or conquer the centre, the Populars chose the second option. Even if they will need Vox to govern.

No
yet «Santi» Abascal is a Francoist. He is an anti-anti-Francoist. For him, Falangists and even reds are: “The left wants to reopen the wounds of the past, we want to close them.” The story that interests him is that of the Reconquista against the Moors, of the Catholic Monarchs, of the Conquistadores who built the Spanish empire in America. He theorizes the Iberosphere: he is against immigration, except for anti-Castro Cubans and Venezuelans who hate Maduro. He is against the «progressive dictatorship» and for a «right without complexes». His is not a nostalgic vote, but a young, urban, social, reactionary one. It is the Spanish expression of what the great writer Javier Cercas defines “national populism” which occurs throughout Europe. Indeed, Vox has caricatured exponents, such as the new vice president of the Community of Valencia, Vicente Barrera, a former bullfighter who has named his horse Caudillo. In the polls it is around 13%, just over a third of the popular ones.

An alliance that Feijóo is not enthusiastic about. Not surprisingly, in the only duel with the premier Pedro Sánchez has effectively proposed a grand coalition: if the socialist leader is so scandalized by Vox, he will undertake to abstain in Parliament in the event of a victory for the Populars; and the Populars will do the opposite in the event of a socialist victory. A well played move. But also a trap that Sánchez obviously did not fall into: would have contradicted his whole story.

When the socialists decided precisely to abstain to give birth to the Rajoy government, Sánchez resigned as a deputy. He began to tour Spain in his car, to awaken the pride of the militants of the Psoe (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party: pronounced Pesoe, or just Soe). He sensationally beat the Andalusian president Susana Díaz in the primaries, supported by Felipe González and the dinosaurs of the nomenklatura, returned as party leader, presented a motion of censure against Rajoy, won it, became president of the government and obtained a relative majority in two consecutive elections. The Spanish economy is not bad, employment is at an all-time high, the two lungs of economic growth — tourism and construction — have restarted, inflation is lower than in Italy, the Atlanticist line on Ukraine remained firm.

Then why? Why does a worthy, dynamic, even handsome leader like Sánchez run the risk of clearly losing the elections?

It is partly the right-wing wind sweeping Europe. It’s a bit of Spain’s reaction to its battle for feminism and against gender-based violence, which has especially annoyed young men who watch Vox. It’s a bit of a bubble of discontent that envelops the country. Sánchez governed for five years with Madrid in opposition, with everything the capital represents: judiciary, bureaucracy, finance, media. And he governed with the support of the Catalan separatists, whom he freed from prison. A move that eased the tension, but was not forgiven by the majority of the Spaniards.

Now Popular and Conservatives need 176 seats, an absolute majority. If they don’t make it, making agreements with the Catalans and Basques will be very hard. Abascal is Basque, but a Spanish fan: he hates the political heirs of ETA, and is hated by them. And Vox also grew on the wave of the rejection of Catalan secession. For his part, the moderate Feijóo acknowledged that “the popular party in Barcelona has made mistakes.” With truncheons you don’t do politics.

Everything indicates that Feijóo would really prefer to govern with the abstention of the socialists, perhaps after the resignation of Sánchez as secretary, rather than with the extremists of Vox. But the grand coalition is not in the political culture of a country that has known a terrible civil war and a dictatorship that ended less than fifty years ago, and only with the death of the dictator.

Vox in government would mean a victory for the sovereigns of half of Europe, including ours. But it would also mean the reopening of the Catalan question, anesthetized by Sánchez. And maybe a return to the polls in a few months, wanted by Feijóo to inflate the votes of the popular party. Certainly in the next Parliament there will be neither Pablo Iglesias nor his former partner Irene Montero, the founders of Podemos: the radical left presents itself in a cartel, Sumar, led by Labor Minister Yolanda Díaz, who has nothing to do with Podemos.

Spain prepares in three days to return to the right; with all the unknowns of a very modern country, on which, however, still hangs the shadow of a great and terrible story.

July 19, 2023 (change July 20, 2023 | 09:52)

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