Spain: Fragmented country can’t decide on a leader
“Spain is adrift without a government,” said TheSpainReport.com in an editorial. We have had a caretaker government for nine months because the past two elections, in December 2015 and this June, failed to produce a clear winner. Both times, the conservative People’s Party won the most votes—about 30 percent— but nowhere near a majority. And both times, the PP’s leader, incumbent acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, failed to form a coalition. The Socialists, led by Pedro Sánchez, came in second but absolutely refuse to support a PP-led government and have been unable to form their own ruling coalition with smaller extreme-left and regional parties. No one is willing to negotiate: Ahead of the June election, “everyone said they would not budge, and in the end, everyone did, in fact, not budge.” To make matters worse, Rajoy lost a parliamentary vote of confidence on Aug. 31. The constitution sets out a specific timetable for elections, so if the legislature can’t muster a majority behind one prime minister by the end of October, a third election will have to be held on Christmas Day, when turnout is likely to be extremely low.
The problem is that the two party leaders hate each other, said Luis María Anson in El Mundo. Rajoy believes that since his party got the most votes, he should be prime minister, and only the “vanity” of Sánchez is standing in his way. Sánchez, for his part, says that since “most people voted for change,” anyone but Rajoy would do. We’re in this situation because nearly half the voters rejected both the PP and the Socialists, said José María Carrascal in ABC. For decades, we effectively had a two-party system, which meant coalitions weren’t needed to rule. But two smaller parties led by 30-somethings have recently stolen a chunk of the old giants’ vote share: the leftist Podemos, “basically communism with a hippie touch,” and the Citizens party, “a typical neoliberal European party” that favors tax cuts and less government. We now have four main parties, and “they are incapable of reaching an understanding.”
Another election won’t change things, said Jorge de Esteban in El Mundo. Polls show that Spaniards would vote almost the same way they did last time: 33 percent for the right-wing People’s Party, 13 percent for the center-right Citizens, 23 percent for the center-left Socialists, 21 percent for the far-left Podemos, and 10 percent for other small parties. If members of the legislature could vote for prime minister by secret ballot, as they do in Germany, Rajoy would probably win. But as it is, the only way to avoid another election is the “patriotic resignation of Rajoy” to make way for another PP candidate that Sánchez might be willing to support. After overseeing nine months of deadlock, quitting is the most statesmanlike thing Rajoy could do.