The Government of Spain takes an experimental path

Pedro Sánchez en Mérida

The Spanish parliament has suddenly and unexpectedly used a constitutional motion of censure against the government of Rajoy to elect a new government. The new government returns Spain to the ancient ghosts of the first third of the 20th century: multi-party and fractured coalitions.


Pedro Sanchez, a young man with limited experience, leads the venerable socialist party, which has been the key protagonist in the transition and Spanish democracy since the 1978 constitution, with silence and cunning. From this position of leadership he has launched a parliamentary coup which no-one anticipated or imagined until the day it materialised.


Sanchez has evicted Rajoy and the PP to take up residence in the Moncloa (the Prime Minister´s office) next week. Rajoy is still asking himself “what happened?” “Have they sacked me?” The new President arrives without a government programme or agreement, heading a coalition of six of the eight groups registered in the parliament. These groups amount to 180 members of parliament grouped around twenty parties of the far left and separatist Basque and Catalan nationalism.


The new President sensed the opportunity to capture (for one day in his favour) the vote against Rajoy, a resentment stoked by the crisis, which is the glue holding together an informal and opportunistic coalition. This coalition drives Spanish politics towards the left at the very moment when the polls show a clear trend towards an emerging party on the centre-right: Ciudadanos.


Sanchez is going to construct a monotone government of his party (PSOE) sustained by 85 members of parliament (of which seven belong to the Catalan Socialist Party, which enjoys autonomy), which needs the support of various groups which until now were in opposition, and with whom he has no agreements, and who are united only by their rejection of Rajoy. They are also united by fear of the trend in the polls which places Ciudadanos in first place with almost 30% of the intention to vote. The government of Suarez is sustained by the desire to get rid of Rajoy and delay the elections until the end of the current legislature in June 2020. The only moment of joy this government will enjoy will be the moment it enters the gates of the Moncloa. Thereafter it will suffer only perpetual impotence.


Spanish democracy is entering an experimental path which leaves to one side the values of stability and predictability which have characterised the last forty years. The demons of the agonised monarchy of Alfonso XIII and the Second Republic in the first third of the century return: many parties, instable and fragmented, much confrontation, and poor results.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.