For 18 hours the coalition government between PP and Ciudadanos in Castilla y León has been on the wire and with an escalation of tension that began on Monday and went into hiatus on Tuesday, when the vice president of the Board, Francisco Igea, assured that nobody was going to resign and that the pact was not going to be broken. Just the opposite of what the president, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, wanted, in favor of calling early elections that would free him from his partner, return the absolute majority and avoid a more than probable motion of censure by the PSOE in March.
That Mañueco wanted to provoke that storm became evident when Igea, accompanied by his three councilors (Health, Culture and Employment), acknowledged to the press on Tuesday during the debate on Monday that the PP was going to align itself with the Socialists to overturn the plan of reform of primary care, the cornerstone of the Minister of Health, Verónica Casado. “I knew it when the president said it in plenary session,” he said. There was no prior warning.
A public and unexpected betrayal
The betrayal, public and unexpected, materialized around 5:00 p.m. on Monday, in the first plenary session after the summer period. Something as trivial as a Non-Law Proposition of the PSOE became the silver bullet for Ciudadanos. Mañueco debated with the leader of the Socialists, Luis Tudanca, on the NLP that urged to withdraw the plan of Verónica Casado, to reopen all rural clinics and to guarantee face-to-face care. And the president fired: “I’m going to vote in favor of your NLP,” he said, while the Citizens’ bench was stirring, “and I’ll wait for you tomorrow in my office,” he added. Mañueco offered to reach agreements in exchange for Tudanca joining his requests to the central government. While this was happening, several Autonomous Citizens deputies left the hemicycle, stunned, and trying to recover from the coup.
But Igea, who rarely contains emotions, exploded, and so did it during the debate. Taking advantage of a question from a Podemos deputy, Laura Domínguez, about the treatment of health professionals, the vice president ended up attacking the PP and the PSOE, and affirming that “health policy in Spain is a bloody national shame”, with headlines from several communities in which both parties reproached each other for the same things “depending on who is in charge of each place.” It was a declaration of intent. At the end of the plenary session, Mañueco gave an interview to Castilla y León Televisión in which, lukewarmly, he did not rule out either the electoral advance, which for him depends on carrying out the budgets, or the motion of censure by the PSOE, “with transfers” . He thus confirmed the information published by elDiario.es last Sunday, that he is in a mousetrap from which he wants to get out. The chosen form, causing Citizens to break the government pact to be “forced” to dissolve the Cortes, almost paid off.
“I’m going to give that press conference”
During that interview with Mañueco, Igea, tremendously active on Twitter, released the video in which he called the health policy and the “demagoguery on one side and the other in all communities” as shameful and added: “Don’t count on us. No we will lie to the citizens. ” After the president’s interview, Igea published a tweet in support of the Minister of Health, of whom he said he was “proud.” Manueco had undermined her by siding with the Socialists, and he stressed the value of loyalty. At 7.26 on Tuesday he returned to the charge, announcing that when the plenary session ended (in Castilla y León it is always held in two sessions) he would give a press conference to talk about health policy and the state of the government agreement. At that moment all the alarms went off, both in the PP and in Citizens. That Igea is as explosive as he is uncontrollable they know very well in their own group. An hour after that tweet, the press conference had not been officially called. After 11.00 in the morning, while the NLP was debated and the parties fixed the direction of their vote (with Mañueco and his advisers absent from the hemicycle to address the situation in a meeting), the press did not know whether or not there would be a press conference . It was Igea himself who gave the order, when journalists confirmed that there was no call. “I’m going to give a press conference when the plenary session is over. Call. I’m going to give that press conference. Call. Now,” he told the press office, who five minutes later detailed the place of the meeting.
“I could file a motion of censure myself,” warns Igea
The vote ended with 70 favorable votes and 11 abstentions (those of Citizens). And the meeting with the media began. Veiled, he pointed to Mañueco as a traitor, and assured that neither he nor the counselor had planned to resign, much less break the pact. “I am not going to betray my government partner in one afternoon or one night,” he snapped. For him, who was about to fall into the ambush of the PP, it is time to guarantee stability in Castilla y León. Of course, he marked territory remembering that the PP has some ministries and Citizens others, and that Health, is theirs, a position very far from the unity of government. “Manueco has made a strategic mistake, I’m upset, but I’m not going to break the pact,” he assumed. And he launched another message: Casado is the counselor most valued by citizens according to polls. Igea’s press conference took place while Mañueco and Tudanca met to discuss health policy without the Minister of Health.
The gap in the government is clear, because two different messages are transmitted: for Igea, no plan has been overturned, because none had been approved, and there is only one working document (with a pilot plan in the Aliste region, Zamora ) and rural clinics will not be reopened because they have not been closed. For Mañueco, the plan is not going to go ahead, that’s what the NLP said.
Although the escalation of tension stopped after the press conference, in the ranks of the PP they recognize that “something has been broken”, but that Mañueco is reinforced by making the decision to overturn Casado’s health plan two years after presenting it. Despite everything, they do not consider the crisis over and see the electoral advance close and probable.
In an interview in Castilla y León Televisión on Tuesday night Francisco Igea has asked journalists to do numbers before ensuring that a motion of censure (by the PSOE) cannot be presented until March. “Make numbers, I can present it myself, only two votes are needed apart from those of Ciudadanos,” he warned. The pulse between PP and Ciudadanos has only just begun.