Why could the Prime Minister of Spain be very successful in losing his job

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meDON’T DEBATE between the main leaders of the Spanish party on July 10, the moderators again had to ask the two to stop talking about each other, an instruction that they did not notice. It was an appropriate time for Spanish politics, where practitioners are better at talking than listening.

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Pedro Sánchez, behind him in opinion polls, is fighting to keep his position in elections on July 23. The leader of Spain’s Socialist Workers Party took power in a vote of no confidence against the People’s Party government (PP) in 2018. When he did that, he said in the debate, three responsibilities were at stake: the economy, corruption and Catalonia. He can make a case that he developed all three.

Covid-19 was a terrible surprise, especially the first wave, in which tens of thousands died and Mr. Sánchez announced a heavy lockdown. An economy dependent on tourism collapsed dramatically. The PP It is interesting to note how many other countries have recovered their pre-pandemic level of GDP before Spain did.

But now is a good time to get over Spain. GDP grew 5.5% last year, and forecasts have been revised again and again for this year as well: the European Commission expects growth of 1.9%, well ahead of Germany’s 0.2% and France 0.7% Inflation is lower than in other economies in the euro zone – which the Socialists attribute to their policies (although the country’s lack of dependence on Russian energy helps). Unemployment at 13% is still high for Europe, but it is low for Spain.

In terms of corruption, too, there is little argument: the coalition government has been clean, with arguments about Mr. Sánchez’s use of the official pier being one of the few issues they discuss. Mr. Sánchez’s selling point is Catalonia, which is also a reason why he could be looking for a new job soon.

In 2017 the regional government of Catalonia held a referendum on independence that was banned by Spain’s supreme court. The separatists claimed victory and declared independence, which led the Madrid government to revoke Catalonia’s autonomy and rule directly. When new elections were held, separatist parties took a majority of seats.

Mr. Sánchez has resolved the conflict. A “discussion table” did not provide much substance, but it has kept the parties talking. Since the two main separatist parties fell out, one is ruling with the support of the Catalan affiliate of Mr Sánchez’s Socialists, who came first in the latest regional election. After the local elections in May, the Socialists took back the mayor’s job in Barcelona, ​​the capital of Catalonia.

Many believe that the concessions made by Mr. Sánchez are unforgivable. The first was to pardon nine separatist leaders (although they are still banned from politics). The second was two reform laws under which they were convicted. It replaced the old disorderly conduct law, introducing the unusual offense of “aggravated public disorder”. Misuse of public funds (used by the Catalans to hold the referendum) was divided into a crime related to personal corruption and a milder crime without it. Justice “à la carte” for the separatists, crying those for whom the wounds left by the referendum are still raw. All this looks even worse when it is added to Mr. Sánchez’s occasional deals with messengers from EH Bildu, which succeeded the political wing of ETAa Basque terrorist group that killed hundreds of people in their campaign for independence.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who became the leader of the PP last year, is the man hoping to take advantage of the polarizing nature of Mr. Sánchez. He was born in a poor town, studied law, ran the postal service and the health system before electoral politics, in which he won four absolute majorities to run Galicia, in the north-west, a task in a time of broken politics. His style is more serious than fierce. He does not speak English and has little background in foreign policy. He cites among his virtues being “rolling”.

In the debate Mr. Feijóo promised that he would never go to Bildu, and his PP says he will review all laws passed with Bildu’s support. Mr. Feijóo promises to bring back the crime of sedition. He can’t afford to look soft on the side of Vox, a hard-right nationalist party that has recently proposed taking Spain back. But Mr. Feijóo, who speaks Galician, speaks of “cordial bilingualism” as a way to reconcile regional nationalists with Spain. He has also accepted legal abortion and speaks kindly of gay and transgender citizens. In other words, he is not a culture hero.

Mr. Sánchez is very involved in showing his rival how to be with Vox. That’s a tough case to make. It is true that Mr. Feijóo may need Vox to govern, as it seems unlikely that he will win a majority. But that can be seen as a reason to vote PP: until he has to depend on other people. At least the Spanish have discovered that voting Socialist hardly means a strong one-party government. For five years it has meant that a prime minister would be too capable of strange coalitions himself.

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