Growing Instability in Spain's Government

November 10, 2019

 

Spain’s government has been in political turmoil for the past four years. The Catalonian Independence movement has augmented the fractures in the Spanish people and by extension the Spanish government. Snap elections have been called four times in just as many years, leading to speculation over whether or not the Spanish elections are capable of creating a stable, functioning government. This fear has resurfaced this past year after the elections in April ended with the retention of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español, or the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), a center left establishment party.

 

He originally came into power after a Vote of No Confidence was called on the People’s Party (PP), the establishment conservative party, in 2018. While he was elected Prime Minister, his party did not do as well in the election and could not hold a majority in the Houses of Cortes Generales, making it very difficult to form a functioning government. There were discussions of creating a coalition with the Podemos Party headed by Pablo Iglesias, an insurgent left wing party formed in 2014 by Iglesias to fight against inequality and corruption. However, when Prime Minister Sánchez refused to have members of the Podemos Party in his Council of Ministers, this tentative coalition fell apart. Spanish King Felipe VI worked with the political parties that comprise the Houses of Cortes Generales to find support for the Prime Minister and avoid a second general election this year, but was unsuccessful as Prime Minister Sánchez lacks support in both chambers. As a result, on November 10th, 2019, there will be a second general election where all seats of the Congress of Deputies and most seats of the Senate will be up for election. 

 

Current polls indicate that as of October 15th, 2019, PSOE is in the lead with 28% of the electorate that was polled claiming they would vote in favor of the party. The People’s Party is closely following at 22%, and Podemos is trailing behind at 13%. With the election less than a month away, these polls indicate that no party will be able to hold an absolute majority in the Houses of Cortes Generales, leaving Spain back where it began - seeking to form a majority coalition in order to have a functioning government. However, Prime Minister Sánchez does not believe that will be the ultimate outcome of the election. In an interview with Ana Rosa in her show El Programa de Ana Rosa, Prime Minister Sánchez stated that the general election will “break the deadlock and allow Spain to move forward.” In the same interview, Prime Minister Sánchez calls for a Spanish government that is not contingent on pro-Catalan independence movements, as the movement is causing a rift in Spain as a whole. 

 

The Catalan independence movement has been growing for almost a century, but was reignited in 2010. This was due to the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, a law passed by the Catalonian community that ruled that there would be certain independent features maintained in Catalonia, such as the Catalonian language being placed above Spanish in the Catalonian region, but in 2010 Spanish Parliament ruled that it was not going to uphold the Statute. In 2014, the Catalan Referendum was held in which 81% of those that voted were in favor of Catalonia becoming independent from Spain, but the Spanish government refused to honor the referendum results because less than half of people of voting age actually voted. Learning from the 2014 referendum, the Catalonian parliament passed a law in 2017 just before another referendum, stating that if there was a majority vote in favor of independence there would be an independent state regardless of the voter turnout. The results for the 2017 referendum revealed that approximately 90% of voters were in favor of independence, however the President at the time urged for discussions before drastic measures were taken. The Catalan Parliament declared its independence shortly after the results; consequentially the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan Parliament and called a snap election. In June 2018, the Catalonian parliament regained control of the region. This year the Spanish Supreme Court found nine of the Catalan independence movement leaders guilty of sedition and sentenced them to between nine and thirteen years in prison. The culmination of these actions have caused fractures among Spanish citizens, leaving them unable to vote in favor of a majority for their government.  

 

The Catalan independence movement has been a big proponent of the rift in Spain and its inability to form a functioning government. With the next general election arriving in less than a month, the question remains what the outcome will be. Prime Minister Sánchez urges Spanish citizens to focus on moving Spain forward in the future rather than continuously splitting the vote between parties that he claims are unable to form a functioning government. He still believes that his party, PSOE, is the best hope for Spain with their progressive platform. As the election approaches, the Spanish people are confronted with key decisions as to which party they will vote for that has a greater chance of forming a functioning government, and what it is that party stands for. 

 

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