Spain: Difficult government formation for Social Democrats and Podemos


In September, the Spaniards' night's sleep was still the top priority for Pedro Sanchez. "I could not sleep soundly and 95 percent of the citizens either," said the Social Democratic premier at the time his rejection of a coalition with the left-alternative Podemos of Pablo Iglesias.

Two months later, they hug each other in front of the camera: Sanchez and Iglesias, "Pedro y Pablo". This is what some Spaniards already call the new duo, in reference to an Argentinian rock group of the same name. The two politicians sign a provisional coalition agreement – not 48 hours after the new election, in which their two parties had to accept losses. And the social democrat Sanchez declares: "We have implemented the will of the voters". Well aware that he and Iglesias have yet to get a majority together for their government in parliament.

They could have had it easier. Much easier. If Pedro y Pablo had agreed on their coalition in September, they would have left 165 out of 350 MPs behind. Now the two groups together only comprise 155 parliamentarians. An absolute majority now lacks 21 seats instead of eleven. Above all, Sanchez was responsible for this: He preferred to govern alone and therefore opted for new elections. In the calculation, many mandates to win.

Instead, his PSOE lost seats. And when the prime minister stepped in front of his supporters on election night with the intention of selling the result as a great victory, the comrades chanted: "Con Podemos Si!" ("With Podemos Yes!") – and waving red flags.

"Sanchez has now realized that all other strategies are going nowhere," says Gunther Maihold. For the Spain expert of the foundation science and politics the agreement is a dam break. Because since the restoration of democracy 40 years ago, Spain has never been led by a coalition government.

But can Sanchez and Iglesias even get a government? They must now do their utmost to get at least a relative majority in parliament for the decisive vote on the prime minister. Should Sanchez get more votes than no votes in the second ballot, he would be again Premier.

And so Pedro y Pablo go now Klinkenputzen in the small and micro parties. No fewer than 16 political groups will be included in the new House of Representatives, including a left-wing alliance, Catalan and Basque nationalists, regional parties from the Canary Islands, Cantabria and Galicia. And there is the list "¡Teruel Existe!" – "Teruel Exists!" It's called that because the 35,000-inhabitant provincial town of Teruel in Aragon is something like Bielefeld in this country: Spaniards joke again and again that this city does not exist in truth.

Secured is: "Teruel Exists!" exist. 19,696 votes were given to the party, which was once founded because the region had no motorway access and otherwise only a few decent connections to the rest of Spain. That's enough for a mandate holder in the new House of Representatives. Tomas Guitarte is the man, and for his support of the left coalition, he demands, among other things, the completion of a nearby highway whose construction is faltering, as well as other infrastructure measures for Spain's rural areas.

Sanchez and Iglesias become "Teruel Exist!" take seriously. Because the depopulation of certain rural areas is indeed a problem – and because they need Tomas Guitarte. Because every single vote counts.

"Sanchez and Iglesias have to drive a rag picking strategy," says Maihold. And even if the two party leaders are the moderate Basque nationalists, Cantabrians, Galicians, Canaries, the leftist MP and "¡Teruel Existe!" They only come up with 169 out of 350 votes. That's still not enough.

In the election of the Prime Minister would then still, for example, abstain from the Catalan nationalist Left Republican. The "Esquerra" fought in the fall of 2017 for the secession of Spain, now it occurs on a more moderate. But larger political concessions to Catalan nationalists can not be allowed by Sanchez and Iglesias.

An alternative would be the right-wing Ciudadanos. Their longtime boss Albert Rivera had categorically impose a choice of Sanchez. But now Rivera has adopted after the electoral debacle of Ciudadanos, which lost 47 of 57 seats on Sunday, out of politics. The resignation has created a "new dynamic," says Guillem Vidal, a political scientist at the Berlin Social Science Research Center: "Sanchez and Iglesias will try to force the Ciudadanos to abstain."

After four parliamentary elections in four years, many citizens have become exhaustly tired, they finally want a stable government. "All political players are aware that they can not convene elections again in half a year," says Spain expert Maihold. "Then only Vox would get stronger." The ultra-right party is already the third strongest political party in parliament after the recent election.

Preserving democratic Spain from the radical right – with this argument Pedro Sanchez and Pablo Iglesias will vie for the "si" or at least the abstention of the other parties. Will that be enough for a majority? But if it works, the old and new father of the country will first have to explain to his citizens why they can now sleep peacefully.

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