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.
Guy Hedgecoe | When it was announced last month that Basque terrorist group ETA was planning to disarm by April 8th, a couple of editors working for foreign media rang me to ask the same thing: How important is this? It was a fair question. There are two very different perspectives on the separatist organisation’s decision to give up its weapons via a team of international intermediaries in the south of France on Saturday.
In Madrid, much of the media and most commentators, -not to mention the big national parties — tend to be bewildered, if not outraged, by the secessionist drive. When in Catalonia (or at least speaking to independentistas), I find that the opposite is true: disenchantment with and disdain for the Spanish state is almost a given and the word “independence” tossed around as if it were a football.
Since the beginning of 2014, the Spanish economy has been recovering from a very tough crisis – unemployment jumped from 8% in 2008 to 26% at the start of 2014 and has now fallen to 18.9%. This is in part thanks to the ECB’s extremely expansionary monetary policy and low interest rates. Now after Donald Trump’s victory, everything could become unstable.
Mr Rajoy has appointed his new cabinet ministers on Friday. When we talk about governance in Spain, with what is clearly a minority government, the socialist party’s participation in this future looks inevitable. And only then will we witness its capacity for reinvention and getting past the slogans.
Today Mariano Rajoy has been sworn in as Prime Minister after Saturday’s investiture session. He obtained a simple parliamentary majority with 170 votes in favour, 69 abstentions, 111 votes against and 1 absentee. So at last the period of uncertainty which had lasted since December 2015 is over.
The most important thing is not the fact that Rajoy has been saved, although it is, because he is giving investors and businessmen reasons to still have confidence in Spain. But it is the fact that he has saved the country from the worst case scenario: a return to times of misrule, which in this case would have been even more bloody for the country.
After successive defeats in the general elections over the last four years, the socialist party has ousted its leader. This time round, the dismissal was carried out by force, with an agonising voting process via a show of hands after 12 hours of debate over how and what to vote.