The predicted train crash between the Catalan and the Spanish governments has now happened. But what’s next? It’s difficult for the referendum to be a success, but the the fact there is no independence in the short-term, doesn’t mean that the train crash is not going to have consequences in the medium-term.
Acting as an “agent provocateur”, Catalonia’s government intends to hold a wholly biased and unrepresentative independence referendum in early October. It knows the outturn will hardly attain half of the potential voters, as only a minority of the population favours an outright split from Spain.
Spain may not be the most common point of entry for most migrants and refugees to Europe – last year it received only two percent of arrivals – but it does seem to be facing increasing challenges in this area. Cities like Málaga and Tarifa, on the south coast, are currently struggling to manage arrivals, which so far this year have doubled those of the equivalent period in 2016.
The PSOE, which governed during two terms of office with an atypical leader, Zapatero, is now so disorientated that it’s suffocating and looking to leftism for some air without any basis. It’s on the point of taking Pablo Iglesias’ bait, that a Grand Coalition against Rajoy is possible.
Some things never seem to change and the Spanish left’s inability to unite against the right has looked like one of them. The two general elections and months of political paralysis Spain lived through between December 2015 and October 2016 saw the PSOE and Podemos locked in a battle for control of the left which turned poisonous at times and allowed the PP’s Mariano Rajoy to stay in power simply by doing what he does best – sitting back and watching.
It was the result Spain’s Socialist bigwigs had feared: a resounding victory for Pedro Sánchez in their party’s primary on Sunday, beating Andalusia premier Susana Díaz and former Basque premier Patxi López, to become leader for a second time.
After a turbulent year in 2016 for Spanish politics and especially for socialist party, the primary election for PSOE will be held next Sunday. The election of candidates had never generated so much interest in the media and the people, but this time is different. The future of declining social democracy across Europe could start clearing in Spain.
It makes for a good headline: “Spanish parties vote to exhume dictator Franco”. Apart from the implied drama of digging up a feared former ruler, those words suggest that there is now a consensus regarding the country’s historical memory and a willingness to act on it.
The gathering of endorsement signatures by candidates ahead of the leadership contest of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is not usually seen as overly significant. The numbers are a vague indicator, no more, of the support a particular candidate can expect in the final vote by party activists. But this time, ahead of the PSOE’s May 21 primary, it’s different.
Whatever you think of Mariano Rajoy, you can’t deny his ability to dig in. When in opposition, as leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), he survived two general election losses, as well as thwarting mutinies within his own ranks; as prime minister since 2011 he has ridden through economic near-meltdown, the threat of new parties Podemos and Ciudadanos and a torrent of corruption scandals.