Since he began to walk, three years and two months ago, dozens of analyzes have given the government coalition between PSOE and Unidas Podemos for dead. Each time it seemed impossible for him to overcome the various precipices that were emerging. It was not going to last, it would not achieve its first Budgets, nor the second ones, much less the third ones. I wouldn’t get over the pandemic. It would die with inflation accelerated by the Ukrainian war. The autumn of 2022 would end it due to the enormous economic crisis that would come, which would take people out on the streets…
All those tests failed. The coalition has managed to reach the final stretch of the legislature with more than 200 initiatives approved and a much better-than-expected economic situation, although it is not exempt from serious problems, especially skyrocketing food inflation.
But this week something has changed. And the dramatic qualifiers make sense again to describe a situation that now does seem very serious, perhaps the most delicate of the entire legislature. The divided vote on the reform of the law on sexual freedom or the only yes is yes, the first great rule of the Government in which the coalition is fractured, and the stark debate in Congress – the deputy of Podemos Lucía Muñoz went so far as to say of the PSOE: “It is allying with the PP and Vox so that (the judges) ask us again if we closed our legs properly”—has generated a reaction in some socialist sectors that is different from that of other crises. The Basque Patxi López, a politician hardened in a thousand battles, exploded that Tuesday: “It has been unpresentable,” he described Podemos’s speech.
That afternoon, shortly after the debate, some deputies began to speak among themselves with a clear message: this is unsustainable, the president has to remove Irene Montero from the government. Not to break the coalition, but to make that gesture of authority with the Minister of Equality. However, all the members of the Executive, the PSOE leadership and the hard core of Pedro Sánchez consulted completely rule it out.
A minister sums up a very general analysis that is perceived in the president’s environment as follows: “To break now would be to hand over victory to the right.”
Other members of the Executive and the PSOE explain that a coalition only breaks for two reasons: because you think you can govern alone or because you assume that you are going to lose and you break to try to consolidate your positions and better prepare for the next vote. And neither of the two hypotheses is given here, they insist.
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In La Moncloa they are sure that there is a party, that the December elections can be won because most of the data from the management are positive and the left has two competitive candidacies with Sánchez and Yolanda Díaz —who are considered a safe candidate for that space to the left of the PSOE—in front of Alberto Núñez Feijóo and Santiago Abascal. Therefore, they conclude that breaking the coalition would be the worst possible decision now. These sources thus rule out that Sánchez takes advantage of the mini-crisis of the Government that he has planned for this month of March —in which he will replace Reyes Maroto (Industry) and Carolina Darias (Health), candidates in the municipal elections— to give a change of direction with Irene Montero.
The president, his supporters point out, is absolutely convinced that, despite the tensions, the coalition must continue. And he believes that dismissing Montero would in all probability lead to a total rupture, because the rest of the United Podemos ministers, with Yolanda Díaz at their head, would have to follow in his footsteps.
Sánchez defends in public and in private that, despite all the problems, that of the first coalition that governs Spain since the Second Republic is a success story, because all the surveys show that the majority of citizens, especially the progressives although Not only them, they support the Government’s measures, which range from labor reform to raising the minimum wage or pensions, going through dozens of far-reaching reforms. The last of them, the one that the coalition has just agreed to in the midst of a crisis: the pension reform, which was closed on Thursday.
The way out of this mess, they believe in La Moncloa, does not go through breaking the coalition but rather taking care of it and, above all, vindicating the management. Of course, the distance between Sánchez and Irene Montero is increasingly evident. They haven’t spoken for a long time, and all the president’s gestures are aimed at isolating the minister and practically intervening politically in her powers, as evidenced by the fact that this week a parity law was approved by the Council of Ministers in which she did not participate at all. The project was finally presented at a press conference by Nadia Calviño, the first vice president and the most powerful woman within the socialist sector of the Executive.
Sánchez ignores Irene Montero and also the risque criticism of Podemos. She has decided to function almost as if the Podemos ministers did not exist, but she does not intend to go any further, various sources agree. “Whoever pushes the nuclear button and breaks, loses. If they want to leave, it’s his problem, but we’re not going to kick them out. And I think that neither of the two things will happen ”, sums up a socialist leader.
In the PSOE they identify Irene Montero as the main cause of the problem, as the head of the failed negotiation for the reform of the law of only yes is yes that led to this fracture. From Podemos, on the contrary, they blame Pilar Llop, head of Justice and Montero’s interlocutor, whom they consider inflexible and incapable of negotiating a very delicate matter.
Meanwhile, the right-wing bench, especially the PP, seems increasingly enthusiastic about the battle within the coalition, which they believe will push the opposition to peacefully reach La Moncloa. A PP deputy was laughing this week in the corridors, impressed by the facilities that, in his opinion, his rival is providing. “All we have to do is buy popcorn and sit down to watch the show,” he pointed out, still incredulous about the internal battle in the eyes of everyone that he had just witnessed in the chamber.
What scenario can be expected from now on, when the municipal elections approach? Since Tuesday, both the socialist ministers and Yolanda Díaz have made an effort to send positive messages. “There is much more that unites us than what separates us”, is the official slogan of La Moncloa. “We never should have come this far. People want agreements ”, concludes Díaz. Even Irene Montero, in a different tone and very upset by the decision of the PSOE to rectify its star law without her consent, has said that “the Government is not at risk.”
But the underlying problem persists. There is still the period of amendments and the final vote on the reform of the only yes is yes, which will once again stretch the seams of the coalition.
And above all, according to the most widespread analysis in the socialist sector, what is far from being resolved is the internal battle in Unidas Podemos between the group headed by Yolanda Díaz, and which is promoting the Sumar project, and that of Podemos, with Irene Montero and Ione Belarra as banners. In the PSOE they interpret that many of the tensions of these days come from there, from the pressure that Podemos exerts on Díaz to guarantee that the party of Pablo Iglesias occupies a prominent place in the new space of the left that is being formed around Sumar. . And especially in the future electoral lists, the traditional way of politics to distribute internal power.
As long as this dispute that has been on the table for months is not resolved, the Socialists believe, the coalition will not have a truce and tensions could reappear at any time. These are decisive weeks for that battle, because the regional and municipal elections are approaching, where the expectations of Podemos are not good in some important areas of the country, and it is now, before that future weakness, when the Belarra group is asking Díaz clarity in the distribution of the new power that will emerge from Sumar. In La Moncloa they still trust that everything will calm down when that battle has been resolved, but it is something that is completely beyond the control of the Socialists, who in any case, to prevent the right-wing bloc from being able to govern, see the success of Díaz as a revulsion for the left.
The Government therefore appeals, as always, to its reform agenda to get out of the noise of the internal war. This week will be dominated by that of pensions, which will be dealt with in the Toledo Pact presumably on Wednesday, and there will be new attempts to close the housing law. The government mini-crisis is pending. And above all, Vox’s motion of no confidence is on the imminent horizon, which they are already beginning to prepare in La Moncloa.
Its effects on the right are yet to be defined. The previous motion, which seemed to reinforce Pablo Casado, actually, according to the surveys, helped Vox and harmed the PP. On the other side of the chamber they are sure that it will serve to strengthen the progressive majority. “I wish there was a vote of no confidence every week,” joked a minister. What perhaps the Government would not support are many weeks like this.
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