“There has never been a political agreement between the first party of the Government and the first opposition party. And an exceptional moment requires an exceptional agreement.” The general secretary of the Andalusian PSOE, Juan Espadas, has launched an unprecedented blow to President Juan Manuel Moreno this Thursday, by proposing in Parliament a kind of ‘grand coalition’ with the PP, his political rival in the next regional elections, still without summoning.
The Andalusia-Valencia-Murcia axis mutates from a “non-frontist alliance” to a bloc against the “political inaction of the Government”
The formula proposed by Espadas is a political shock because it does not seem temporary. It is not limited only to the negotiation of the 2022 Budgets, which starts this Friday at the San Telmo Palace in Seville, where Moreno will receive Espadas and the spokesmen of the rest of the parliamentary groups. The new socialist leader will carry with him a list of concrete requests to support the accounts of the Board for next year, the last of the legislature. But he also wants to start from the Andalusian president “a political commitment” of more scope – “at least three years in force” – which involves guaranteeing the progressive salary equalization of Andalusian doctors and teachers with the average in Spain.
Beyond the numbers, the risky German formula of the ‘grand coalition’ between socialists and conservatives in Andalusia stands out, two parties facing dog-face in Congress. “The only two forces that can make it possible to have a Budget in 2022 are PSOE and PP. An exceptional moment requires an exceptional decision,” Espadas insisted, well aware that his political commitment goes a step beyond the alliances that are drawing the Andalusian president himself with other socialist leaders.
Espadas is mayor of Seville, the largest capital that governs the PSOE in Spain, and was a councilor for Housing with the last executives of Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán. But he has just landed in the general secretary of an Andalusian PSOE disoriented in the opposition, after 37 years in power, which has not yet found the formula to make a dent in the Moreno government. His position as a candidate for the Andalusian women is still fragile, because in much of Andalusia he remains unknown. In many respects, this script twist with its commitment to a PP-PSOE pact in the final stretch of the legislature is reminiscent of the one that Moreno himself starred in in 2018, when he unexpectedly supported the reform of the financing model previously agreed upon by three left-wing parties -PSOE, Podemos and IU-, something that bothered the then Government of Mariano Rajoy a lot.
Fighting for the center vote
In electoral terms, the center vote is at stake, disputed by two moderate leaders: one from the center left who needs to mobilize the 400,000 socialist sympathizers who stayed at home in the 2018 elections; and another from the center right that seeks to broaden its social base at the cost of distancing itself from Vox, engulfing Ciudadanos and winning over a handful of disenchanted socialists.
Moreno assumes that his partner in the legislature, Vox, has settled in “electoral key”. The far-right will hardly support next year’s accounts, which would be approved in December, blurring the scenario of an electoral advance in the spring of 2022. The Andalusian president is forging the profile of a moderate leader, capable of drawing “alliances on the fringes of the ideological and party trenches “, such as its recent agreement with the president of the Valencian Community, the socialist Ximo Puig, to demand better financing of their territories from the Government. From that perspective, he does not rule out groping through an unexplored territory in Spain, such as the first budget agreement between the PP and PSOE (the accounts for 2022 will reach a record figure of more than 45,000 million euros and will lay the foundations for the recovery and the transformation of the production model with the injection of capital from European Next Generation funds).
But Moreno asks for caution, he hopes to share “figures and numbers” with his socialist rival, and calibrate his willingness to take his demands on financing to the Pedro Sánchez government. “At the moment of truth, the Andalusian PSOE’s knees shake when it comes to facing the all-powerful organic apparatus of Ferraz, and it decides to behave like a branch of the Socialists in Andalusia,” he said this Thursday in Parliament.
For Espadas, a PP-PSOE pact of this magnitude would help him gain time and make himself known as a candidate for president of the Board, avoiding an imminent electoral advance. The Andalusian socialists, after the departure of Susana Díaz, are in the reconstruction phase inside and out. The order of its new leader is a paradigm shift in the opposition strategy exercised by Díaz to the Moreno government, which until two days ago they called “hostage of the extreme right.” The still mayor of Seville will be able to negotiate in parallel a municipal budget with the forces of the left in the City Council (Podemos-IU) and with the PP for the regional accounts, thus consolidating its pactist vocation.
Health, education and social policy
The economic context behind the proposal to equalize the salary of Andalusian health workers and teachers is relevant: Spain is facing an upturn in inflation and the cost of living that is pushing governments to rethink the increase in the salary of civil servants, doctors and especially teachers, whose involvement in the worst moments of the pandemic has resulted in a notable work overexertion. The socialist leader wants to commit the Andalusian president to “equate the salaries of Andalusian health personnel and teachers with the rest of the communities.” “This cannot be done in a single budget, obviously, but we want there to be a written political commitment, at least three years to get closer to the national average, because Andalusia is not even in the lower salary band, but at the end “, he insists.
Espadas has not estimated how much this political commitment would cost in the first planning exercise – “that is a proposal that corresponds to the Andalusian Executive” -, and has admitted that salary equality with the rest of the communities “is a commitment that the Government had socialist and that we were not able to fulfill “. The salary equalization was also an electoral promise of the PP in the last elections.
Susana Díaz’s successor is an extra-parliamentary candidate, who this Thursday called by surprise an appearance in Parliament minutes before the questions of the president began in the control session of the Government. Espadas will go to San Telmo on Friday “with the intention of dialogue”, “I do not go with red lines”, he said, although in the presentation of his proposals he has outlined some “necessary” conditions, such as the return to the presence of patients in Primary Care centers, a source of tension between the healthcare community and the main opposition line of the left-wing parties. Espadas have been asked if he would sign an Andalusian Budget with the PP in which Vox was also, the far-right party that has supported the last three accounts of the Board and guaranteed the stability of the Moreno Executive. “If the PSOE has a budget agreement with the PP, I already tell him that Vox will not be at that table,” he assured.
It is difficult to imagine that the last Budget of the first center-right government in Andalusia, after 37 years of socialism in power, manages to reconcile the votes of antagonistic forces such as PP, PSOE and Vox. The spokesman for the extreme right in the Chamber, Manuel Gavira, has described the upcoming Budgets as a “shed” and has accused Moreno “of already being part of the inheritance received from the PSOE.”
If this “unnatural” alliance were to prosper, those of Santiago Abascal would have practically made the campaign. The Andalusian president, already freed from the self-restraint corset that has distinguished his face to face with Vox throughout the legislature, has spoiled Gavira’s “electoralist” tone and his “desire to erode the government in which you have participated since out of the last three years. ” Moreno has ended up warning his interlocutor of the transfer of support from Vox to the PP: “Ask your voters. Do not confuse what your voters want with what the members of your party want, because it can lead to frustration,” he snapped.
The axes of Swords
The eight axes that synthesize the proposed agreement that Espadas will bring to San Telmo this Friday share many points in common, at least on paper, with the spending priorities defended by the Board of PP and Cs. The socialist has demanded “transparency and rigor” to “be able to trust” Moreno, and for this he requires knowing the “real budget execution of the latest budgets.” The PSOE has been accusing the Ministry of Finance of not managing well the millions that the Sánchez Government has injected during the pandemic, a complaint that the president himself has verbalized, although later his Minister of Economy admitted that other communities had run into each other with the same bureaucratic obstacles to manage direct aid to companies.
A clear line of debate between the two leaders will be the destination of the Next Generation European funds, which will be partially specified in October. Espadas wants to know Moreno’s plans and he demands more information from the central government. Another of the axes of the PSOE is the “shielding of public services”; the increase in places in residences for dependents, from 2.6% foreseen by the Board, “to 7% in 2022 and a new increase in 2023.” In Equality they demand more own funds for the centers of attention to women victims of sexist violence; in Employment, they ask to invest the 127 million euros they have received this month, plus those that come later, to employability projects for young people – Andalusia has 42% youth unemployment -, for entrepreneurship, micro-businesses and support for the employment of women in the rural environment.
Espadas claims to activate public investments committed and not initiated in the current Budget, with cases in all the provinces, and exemplified in the City of Justice of Seville, a project that he himself championed together with Vice President Juan Marín. It also calls for special attention to municipalities, increasing the Patrica to 600 million euros for municipalities. In Education, he agrees with the PP in the need to increase VET places, “but not through subsidies to private institutes.” “They are privatizing basic training for employment,” he denounced. Finally, it has demanded that the Andalusian Historical Memory Law be executed and complied with.
The Andalusian Executive has not yet outlined the financial envelope of the 2022 Budget, but plans to bring the draft to the Governing Council before October 30, as provided by law. Sources from the Ministry of Finance assure that the planned plan is to design the accounts and start the parliamentary process “as far as possible.” It will depend on how the political negotiation evolves to reach an agreement with the opposition parties. The regulations of the Chamber would allow the Board to withdraw the Budget bill before the definitive total debate, thus avoiding political defeat in Parliament, and extending the accounts for this fiscal year.