Sunday, 3 June 2018
A new President
As expected, Mariano Rajoy was defeated on Friday in a vote of confidence (Censura in Spanish) in the Senate and we have a new President, Pedro Sánchez. He is good-looking - known sometimes as el Guapo - previously a basket-ball player and once rejected by his party two years ago only to return as leader again. Rajoy to me seems a decent man but lacking in the charisma that I think a leader requires. I agreed with his rigid stance to protect the law against the independistas in Catalunya who appeared to have no respect for the law by holding the contentious referendum on 1st October last year. Sánchez on the other hand, tends to play up to his reputation and to me seems rather vain. We will see what happens.
We have too many parties here. I don't mean fiestas, dancing! Not possible to have too many of those. We have too many political parties, each with their own agenda. From the far-left CUP to the political right of Partido Popular. But I would describe the PP as similar to the Conservative party in the UK, not extreme right. We don't have anything further right than the PP. But many people paint them with the spectre of Franco and that is disingenuous. Franco lives on only in political propaganda, the kind of things that happened in that era will never return. But it is a potent political weapon to link the two... PP and Franco.
The vote of confidence was really all about the case of Gürtel but Catalunya was lurking in the background. The name of Gürtel came about because the businessman at the centre of the scandal was called, Correa, which is Spanish for belt. And for some reason the equivalent German word was adopted. I am shocked at what went on and the perpetrators have rightly been jailed.
I don't feel quite the same way about putting Catalan politicians in jail on remand. That is an understatement, I am very much in sympathy with the cause of politicians who naturally are now named, "political prisoners".It has been a long time without trial and many Catalans are justifiably angry about it.
Not wishing to appear too partisan, I suspect that a motive for the debate of censura was simply the ambition of Pedro Sánchez to be President. After the vote, supporters crowded around him in congratulations. This only served to reinforce my view. It was not something to celebrate, to bring down the President. During the voting, I saw young dipudados smirking and laughing as they called out "sí" in support. One having a photo taken on a phone as though it was some kind of a joke. This is a great and noble country, they should not treat it like that.
The future is bleak. Pedro Sanchéz does not have some kind of free reign with Spain. He is tied to other parties in his coalition, some of which want independence for Catalunya. He is subject to the judicirary and the Tribunal Constitucional which have not changed.
One post in The Times comments section expressed a hope that the politicians will soon be released from jail. But this is not withing the remit of the government, it is controlled by the judiciary.
If he intends to do any kind of deal about independence with the independistas of Catalunya (He doesn't have to go far, they are part of his own coalition), he will be hearing fairly rapidly from the Tribunal Constitucional. He has often expressed a wish to change the Constitution to enable freedom to negotiate independence for Catalunya but he cannot do so with the PP, now in opposition strongly against any change.
A friends said to me that he thought the change of Government would be good news for Catalunya but I can't see any change in the status-quo because it is dictated by the Constitution of Spain. He can make generous offers of "dialogue" but that is all it will be and it will probably break down rapidly when Carles Puigdemont insists on independence. The same would have happened with Rajoy who offered talks but only within the law.
Why did Mariano Rajoy not resign on Thursday when he left Congress knowing that the vote was lost on account of the PNV (Patido Nacionalista Vasco) abandoning him? One commentator in La Vanguardia suggested that, because the vote of censure was against Rajoy personally and not against the PP, a change of leadership (maybe to Soraya
Sáenz de Santamaría, his deputy) would have swung the vote back in favour of a "No". Did the PP consult Albert Rivero the leader of the centre-right Ciutadanos to ask if they would support the "no" vote if Rajoy resigned? No, they did not. Maybe the PP felt that their cause was lost and they would have had to call elections anyway. Or maybe Rajoy simply refused to resign, insisting on remaining as leader albeit in opposition. However, El Punt Avui, the fiercely pro-independence Catalan newspaper, was clearly under the impression that the vote was against the PP which it sees as corrupt. But then it would!
So Rajoy stayed as leader and the vote on Friday morning as expected placed Pedro Sánchez immediately as President. The Constitution states that, if a party lodges a vote of censure (no confidence) then they must be prepared to take control in the event of it succeeding. One member of the PP was scathing about it, describing it as "entering the Moncloa by the back door" (in other words by not by winning an election). Sánchez is not even a diputado (MP, member of the Senate) and this is the first time we have had a President who is not a diputado. El Punt wrote, "This is the kind of comment we have come to expect from the PP..." Well, sure, I think that is allowed. It is called "politics" and El Punt is expert in that!