Sánchez proposes social agenda in health, housing and education; implementing it depends on autonomous communities, where PSOE is weak


Aurelio Medel / Cinco Días | All the cards have been dealt to play the 15th legislature of Spanish democracy, which should last until 2027, something that today seems a chimera. Pedro Sánchez and Yolanda Díaz, leaders of the PSOE and Sumar, will be the key figures in the next government thanks to the support of all the Basque and Catalan nationalist and pro-independence parties. To achieve this, they have had to agree on a highly questionable amnesty for the entire Catalan process. This central government is born with the least territorial power in history, as its PSOE colleagues only govern in three of the 17 communities (Castilla-La Mancha, Asturias and Navarre), which barely have 3.7 million inhabitants, and in 11 of the 52 provincial capitals, which is reflected in the Senate, where the PP has an absolute majority.

In other words, never before has the opposition in the Carrera de San Jerónimo had such a strong territorial power with which to stop the central government. This was demonstrated this week during the investiture debate itself with the presence of the regional presidents in the guest gallery.

This power was demonstrated a month ago, when the PP took advantage of its dominance in the Senate to summon all the heads of the regional governments to debate the amnesty law that was on the horizon, the processing of which they are going to torpedo and delay in this chamber, although they will not be able to prevent it.

Pedro Sánchez outlined his investiture programme, which is marked by the commitments made by Sumar and the rest of the investiture partners, in which he listed his eight major commitments for the legislature: “More and better jobs, increased purchasing power, strengthening the Welfare State, promoting ecological transition, ensuring that Spain continues to be a world leader in equality, reducing the differences between provinces, advancing the agenda of reunion and Europe”.

These are statements that the PP would sign off on with their eyes closed, but this will not be the case because they consider themselves the alternative, not the sidekick, and they have already announced a tough opposition, which they will exercise in Congress and from the twelve autonomous governments, which is where a large part of the policies, especially the social ones, will be implemented. Precisely, the third commitment, that of the Welfare State, practically depends on these governments.

This commitment envisages:

  • The “implementation, with the regional governments that wish to do so, of a plan to achieve a drastic reduction in waiting lists”.
  • Strengthening primary care, extending the portfolio of public services to include dental and ophthalmological treatment for our young people”.
  • Great State Pact for Mental Health that will increase the number of psychologists and psychiatrists in public centres and reduce waiting times.
  • Improving the conditions and training of teachers, extending canteen subsidies and the availability of extracurricular educational activities, increasing the allocation of grants and reducing the price of fees.
  • Approval of a Law on Cultural Rights, which will guarantee access to culture for all people and territories, increase aid to creators and maintain the Bono Cultural Joven (Youth Cultural Voucher).
  • Simplification of administrative procedures. New model of face-to-face attention to citizens, with flexible opening hours and without mandatory appointments. Establish by law a maximum of 30 days for the receipt of benefits, such as aid for dependency.
  • Improve access to housing: increase the rental voucher; create a line of guarantees and make 183,000 public housing units available for affordable rentals. Aid for landlords to renovate and modernise homes, with a legal framework that protects them and tax incentives to rent them out.

All of Pedro Sánchez’s promises will be empty without the participation of the autonomous communities, who are responsible for managing health, education, housing and dependency policies, which account for more than half of their budgets. Therefore, they will be delighted to receive more funds from the central government, to be forgiven part of the debt, even if it is as a collateral effect of the agreement with the Catalan independence movement that they despise so much, but instead of gratitude, Sánchez is going to find an answer. That’s politics, my friend.

This gives an idea of the complexity of this legislature. Pedro Sánchez is going to have to make difficult balancing acts to push through legislation on which he can bring the economically right-wing PNV and Junts into agreement with the claims of Sumar, ERC and Bildu, who are at the other extreme. Therefore, the biggest problem will be within the investiture parties. But just in case, Alberto Núñez Feijóo has already warned him not to count on him when he gets into trouble.

The opposition is clear about the opportunity that the discontent among part of the PSOE’s voters opens up for them, which is why they are ready to exploit to the point of exhaustion the original sin of this government by having to accept an amnesty that they were denying. A law that, in short, means that the main ideologue of the pro-Catalan procès, Carles Puigdemont, will return to Spain without even being tried for the same acts that led to the imprisonment of six members of his government in the Generalitat, the president of the Parliament and the presidents of the associations Omnium Cultural and ANC. These nine did not flee and were sentenced in October 2019 by the Supreme Court to sentences of between nine and thirteen years in prison, from which they were released in June 2021 thanks to Pedro Sánchez’s pardon.

The PSOE wants the public to forget the amnesty law as soon as possible, and the PP wants them to keep it in mind. Next year there will be European elections in the first week of June, where the impact of the Socialists’ turnaround will become clear. In addition, there will be elections in the Basque Country and Galicia, and who knows if the Catalan elections, whose legislature ends in February 2025, will be brought forward. This electoral calendar guarantees a very tough political climate in which both sides will not mind taking the citizens hostage.

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The Corner
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