Wednesday, May 18

Deciphering Feijóo

The future president of the PP has a long political career. Mainly in Galicia. This has allowed him to generate an image for Spanish public opinion that is not always compatible with his factual actions. This tension between image and reality will begin to fade as soon as he lands in Madrid. To prepare, he left here some observations and predictions.

Feijóo lacks a defined conservative ideology. He has declared that he voted for the first Felipe González, but he has also assumed the most aggressive right-wing postulates in his short period of opposition in Galicia. Within this wide range of positions, he has always been a politician who rejects adventure, without allowing himself to be locked up by any of the ideological schools that coexist within the Spanish right: neither liberal in the traditional style of Esperanza Aguirre, nor nationalist in the style of Abascal , nor reactionary like Mayor Oreja. More in the indefinite or diffuse style typical of Rajoy. Therefore, he will seek in each conflicting point on the agenda an approach that allows him to erode the Government, even if he shares the substance of the matter, if he considers that he has to do so; or a small argumentative wall to hide behind even if it is not relevant or is inconsistent with other positions. Which will make him more elusive than Casado.

Consequently, he will be pragmatic and opportunistic. He will choose with great freedom the formula that he considers will give him more electoral returns. And it will not hesitate to review it if necessary to maximize its social results or consolidate internal alliances. A flexibility that will lead it to behave in an open and modern way in moral questions or individual rights (denouncing what it considers to be excesses in the defense of feminism or public freedoms), to be autonomous in the territorial question (although harshly opposed to independenceism), to be in favor of always lowering taxes (but we will hardly see him against measures of a social nature): more careful in the formulation of his proposals, multifaceted and elusive.

Feijóo attaches enormous importance to communication strategies. He rightly understands that they are almost everything. He is used to generating news from the overwhelming media power of the Presidency of the Xunta, with a large team and enormous influence. What in Galicia generated a permanent fog that blurred the profile of the applied policies, even if they were contradictory or less ambitious than those proclaimed. Now in the opposition he will not have the same ability to decide the agenda or impose messages. But we can expect a coordinated vision of communication and an attempt to condition the agenda. Although the journalistic environment is more plural and complicated to manage.

Despite his moderate profile, provocation, lies or fake news they don’t scare you. He was, briefly, leader of the opposition in Galicia between mid-2006 and early 2009 and did not hesitate to launch his deputies into personal attacks, feeding hoaxes (Touriño’s luxury, Quintana’s car fridge, etc.), to amplify and distort current decisions (the replacement of the car of the President of the Xunta), to stir up campaigns of fear (“the communists” are going to keep the agricultural land), or to use social division (encouraging extreme positions that warned of the imposition of the Galician language…)… It is likely that the 2005 campaign in Galicia can now be repeated, in a corrected and increased form, using formal media and social networks.

Will follow a plan. Unlike the erratic journey of Casado, with Feijóo there will be a planned line of action, based on the analysis of the situation and demographic studies. In Galicia (2006-2009) he sought to encourage the abstentionism of two complementary sectors of the left: those most sensitive to the populist message against luxury and wealth and the centrist voters who did not assimilate well the presence of the BNG in the Galician government; and he used the PP’s strong on-the-ground presence – complemented by a highly effective final Rajoy campaign – to get conservative voters to the polls. Now the situation is more complex, due to the presence of Vox and the heterogeneity of Spain. Without a doubt, it will thoroughly exploit the differences that may exist in the coalition government, as well as the effect of the support of peripheral nationalists on a “centralist” electorate. He denounces radicalism and independence as a leitmotif of his opposition, always combined with an outstretched hand and moderation in other areas.

Feijóo is a man of power. Not only because he has been in government positions for almost his entire political career. Also because he sees himself as a manager, who pursues efficiency and who can, with an open mind, find good ideas in other political forces. With great ambition, which his four absolute majorities can only encourage. He knows that due to his age and the acceleration of Spanish political life he has only one sure chance (and in any case another improbable one). He will put all the meat on the grill to achieve a victory. And he will do so by seeking to ally himself with those that Casado despised in the past (such as the bosses) and trying not to bother possible allies in the future (such as the PNV). And he will also recognize the internal power positions of the PP. He also knows that only if the PP is recognized as a viable government option can he aspire to the useful vote of the right that can do so much damage to Vox.

As a man of power, he is going to rely on the autonomous presidents of the PP. He must consolidate his internal position to reach the 2023 electoral appointment in good condition. And, unlike Casado, he will seek accommodation with the regional presidents. His battle will not be for long-term control of his party. On the contrary, he will allow each one of the territories to be done, he will fully support each one of them for his re-election, and, in exchange, he will ask for his collaboration so that, with a free hand, he can beat Pedro Sánchez .

He will try to avoid the delicate Ayuso question (which is twofold: what to do with his alleged corruption, how to limit his ambitions), combining the defense of his honorability with the acceptance of the prosecution’s actions -limiting his potential challenge in the process.

It will combine a compromise position on those issues that it wants to remove from the agenda, with a ferocious exploitation of the adversary’s weaknesses. Thus, he will offer some agreements, on those issues that he understands are not electorally profitable and will cultivate an image of moderation, centrality and responsibility. Although the negotiation can be arduous. At the same time, it will try to bite (and with determination) in areas such as those indicated above (taxes and economic situation, transfers to independence, perhaps populist aspects related to the use of public funds and resources, etc.) to maintain the high tone of mobilization on the right and compete with Vox. It will be a combination of an outstretched hand and an iron-fisted statesman pose to exploit weaknesses.

He will fight Vox harshly in terms of speech, agreeing to sign pacts with the extreme right to maintain quotas of power. The recent rise of Vox has been facilitated by the uncritical acquiescence and follow-on of the popular leadership, which will not happen now. But it has to face, at the same time, governance in regional and municipal institutions, now and after the next calls (Andalusia, spring 2023): in those cases, it will authorize coalition governments with Vox, if necessary, emphasizing in the content of the government program. In Galicia, it has defended the criterion of the list with the most votes, and then discarded it in the city of Ourense, for example, where it has supported an independent list (the socialist party being the most voted) to facilitate the permanence of its candidate in the Presidency of the Provincial Council.