Editorial, 17 November 2023
The leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo went to Pedro Sánchez’s seat to congratulate him on his election in Congress as President of the Government. JAVIER LIZÓN / EFE
Different, but common will
Pedro Sánchez was sworn in as President of the Government in Congress yesterday, and will be sworn in today. He obtained 179 votes in favour, three more than the absolute majority, making a second simple majority vote unnecessary.
The PP, Vox and UPN voted against, adding 171 votes. The PSOE candidate had the backing of seven other parties, starting with Sumar, with which he will form a coalition government, and followed by ERC, Junts, Bildu, PNV, BNG and CC. These 179 votes represent 1.3 million more people than those of the right-wing bloc.
The amalgam of left-wing, nationalist and pro-independence parties (some leaning to the right, others to the left) is an achievement for Sánchez, and is the result of several factors: his desire to overcome the Catalan conflict, his recognition of Spain’s plurinationality and the absence of an alternative to win the investiture. Neither did the popular Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who as leader of the PP, the party with the most votes on 23-J, tried first, but failed. And Sánchez did not have it if he did not reach an agreement with the pro-independence supporters, who will now be able to place the territorial debate at the centre of the 15th legislature.
This amalgam, we said, is an achievement, given the disparity of voices that make it up. At the same time, it is an announcement of tensions for the new legislature, given that the PSOE’s satisfaction of the demands of the peripheral parties will probably generate impatience and, therefore, these tensions may threaten the stability and viability of the new government, which the opposition predicts will be short-lived.
Pedro Sánchez, sworn in yesterday, will be sworn in as prime minister today.
The latter will not depend on his wishes, nor on the street demonstrations that they promote or support. Because, in a democracy, the seat of the representation of the Spanish people and of the debate between their different political options, represented by the parties, is in Parliament. This is the only place where the sovereignty of the Spanish people resides. It will also depend on the PSOE’s ability to meet the demands accepted in the pre-investigation agreements with those who made it possible yesterday, without inconveniencing anyone, within the constitutional framework, as well as on the temperance and intelligence of those who expect the fulfilment of the pacts, or part of them. Everything needs its best chance, although the peripheral parties will not admit that this axiom is an excuse for inaction or delay.
The PSOE’s position, its predisposition towards the new legislature, was already clear during the first day: to deepen its commitment to dialogue with those who support it in order to fulfil the agreements, inaugurated, by way of a portico, with the registration of the amnesty law, which is no minor concession. And, at the same time, to present himself as the option for the future and progress in a historic international situation in which the extreme right is advancing. Sánchez criticised Feijóo on Wednesday for his rapprochement with Santiago Abascal’s party and criticised the institutional policies where PP and Vox govern in coalition, listing the setbacks they have brought for democratic rights.
Feijóo’s interventions were, as usual, rich in vilification of Sánchez and were not without coincidence with the de-legitimisation of the president practised by Vox, which still does not seem to understand the rudiments of democracy. All this is said without wishing to equate PP and Vox, since they are different. And since, with his comparison of Sánchez with Hitler, Abascal placed himself outside reality (and also outside the Congress, by absenting himself and his deputies with zero courtesy, and refusing to listen to the pro-independence supporters). In short, the fracture between right and left is now open and bleeding as rarely before in democratic Spain. Synthesis between their positions now seems a chimera. Water and oil.
The fracture between right and left is now open and bleeding.
It is therefore perhaps worth reviewing the speeches, delivered the day before yesterday and yesterday, by the spokespersons of the parties that supported the investiture, and in particular those of the nationalists. Because in their various tones and sensibilities may be found the keys to answering the big question in the air, which is no longer, as in recent weeks, “will there finally be an investiture”, but “how long will a government with atomised and conditioned support hold out?”
The intervention of Gabriel Rufián, spokesman for ERC, was in this sense somewhat reassuring for Sánchez. He began by refuting the mantra, so dear to the right, that “Spain is breaking up”, listing the many occasions on which this has already been pronounced… and not fulfilled. There was a certain empathy, perhaps the result of the four years that republicans and socialists have been negotiating; also in the common disagreement with the right, which Rufián extended to Sumar, Junts, Bildu, PNV, BNG? Without, however, renouncing the republican objective of a referendum on self-determination, albeit through negotiation.
The same cannot be said of Junts’ intervention. Its spokesperson Míriam Nogueras, in an unnecessarily harsh tone, reproached Sánchez on Wednesday for lacking courage in his morning speech, demanding full and prompt compliance with the agreement signed by PSOE and Junts, and warning him of the effects of not doing so. After years of sterile confrontation, Puigdemont’s party has made the right move by entering into negotiations with the PSOE. But the image of intransigence projected by Nogueras is unlikely to win new sympathy for Junts, which, despite its 23-J result, is obstinate in speaking in the name of the “poble de Catalunya”, a diverse country. A new stage, like the one that so many say is opening, requires more realistic attitudes.
The legislature depends on the ability of disparate parties to overcome difficulties.
EH Bildu’s Mertxe Aizpurua had a different approach. She justified her support for the investiture on the mandate of 23-J, which in her opinion was none other than to defend the working classes and stop the accession of the right wing. Aitor Esteban, spokesman for the PNV, evoked the lehendakari Aguirre to vindicate his aspiration for freedom in the face of the left-wing and right-wing revolutions of the first third of the 20th century, in what could have been interpreted as a generic allusion to his party against the PSOE and PP. But he made a distinction and distanced himself from the Popular Party: “Someday I’ll still tell you what they offered me a couple of months ago”. And with the far right: “What is this about wanting to impose in the street what has not been won at the ballot box?” He reminded the PSOE of the pending agreements, although he ended by expressing his optimism.
A new political stage is beginning, fraught with difficulties, but which is also an opportunity to improve coexistence and in which stability will depend not only on these difficulties, but above all on the common will of those who are different to overcome them, for their own benefit and for the benefit of the country as a whole.