From the day after the inauguration, the viability and health of the minority government formed by PSOE and United We Can in January of last year have been questioned. Their own legitimacy was also questioned by some political forces, something that time has helped to laminate.
In these 18 months of existence, the tensions between partners have been evident and public. Sometimes due to substantial differences in energy, immigration or housing matters. In many others, because of ridiculous anecdotes whose very limited trajectory has not prevented that, added together, the image of cohesion of the coalition has been affected.
But, to what extent have these situations generated attrition among your voters? How do the electorates of the PSOE and United Podemos perceive the progress of this political experiment? How long can this friendship be?
Go ahead, the opinion of the voters is just one more ingredient in the equation. There are other reasons why partners maintain or break a governance agreement. The theory says that the minority partner tries to rebuild its own profile from the middle of the legislature, in the face of new elections. But outside the Government it is always cold and, opposite, the parties of the right are mobilized and coordinated. In addition, the risk of appearing responsible for the death of the coalition often acts as a glue.
That said, if we look at the CIS data, we see a continuous wear in the two parties that support the Government, between 7 and 8 points. That always leaves teams uneasy, which often hold the coalition formula responsible for the evils in the polls. But it is not surprising that the government’s own action, the passage of time and a distant electoral perspective provoke these bags of unmotivated voters in both parties, whether or not there is a coalition through.
More indicative, however, is the sympathy that voters of one party feel towards the other governing partner. It would be like seeing if the partners continue to get along, if that intimacy has borne fruit. Currently, the socialists who declare some sympathy for United We Can are barely a third of those who did so in November 2019. Erosion is also detected in the other direction and we find half of UP voters than 18 months ago, expressing some sympathy by the PSOE.
At this point, we can affirm that part of the PSOE and UP voters resent the government action and blame the government partner for that result.
The assessment of Pedro Sánchez at the head of the Executive, however, has been increasing slowly and progressively throughout the legislature, also among purple voters. A certain recognition of the management of Pedro Sánchez is understood throughout the ideological bloc of the left and contrasts with the opinion that UP voters had of the president before announcing the government agreement, which was disastrous, on a scale of 30 to 3. With different paths, currently both electorates express similar confidence in the work of the Prime Minister.
The other side of the coin is Pablo Iglesias. The former leader of Podemos never had a reputation among the socialists, but his assessment fell apart over the course of the legislature. His numbers before announcing his departure from the government had also fallen among his own voters. The rise of Yolanda Díaz throws some extraordinary numbers. His assessment is very positive in both electorates; among the purple ones it sweeps, but among the socialists it multiplies by 5 the figures of Pablo Iglesias. It is even more surprising when he asks “who he prefers as Prime Minister”: UP voters themselves came to prefer Sánchez over Iglesias (November 2020). Currently, Díaz stomps among his own and even 10% of PSOE voters prefer her before Sánchez as president of the Government, when in the Iglesias stage that percentage did not reach 1%.
The change of leadership in United We Can in the Government is, without a doubt, the decision that has contributed the most to aligning interests in the government coalition. Most indicators are modified, up or down, with the epicenter at that milestone. It has eliminated elements of friction between voters on the left, returning the illusion to some and seducing others who, although they will never vote for it, helps them build bridges.
What awaits us in the coming months?
United We can have faced a difficult stage by having to play a double game supporting the Government and showing discontent to present a credential of outsider. It is likely that this game is sharpened to mark your own profile. However, the ideological proximity of both parties makes it more difficult to build a narrative of the breakdown of the coalition, since they share an agenda. It is easier for the CDU and the SPD to break the grand coalition in Germany or for the Italian parties to break the government of national concentration, than for socialists and purples to end their agreement.
Government stability is built on parliamentary stability, not only to make an Executive viable but to approve its legislative agenda. In this sense, the agreements reached by the Government, which we remember is in the minority, with other parliamentary groups, have allowed them to win more than 9 out of 10 votes in the Upper House. At times the support has been obtained on the horn, but it is clear that the strategy works, which gives the Government more reasons to continue.
Unprecedented in this political stage and in an unorthodox way, with public and private discussions, thick words and risqué, but also with passionate reconciliations full of affection, the PSOE and United We Can have known how to take advantage of their enmity. Those who know and love each other are the ones who can do the most damage. However, the lack of sympathy among voters for the other party is a sign of the cracks in the relationship.
This friendship could end up like that of Joaquín Sabina and Fito Páez who, after 9 months of musical collaboration, presented Intimate Enemies, an album made with four hands, with music and lyrics by both composers, something unprecedented in Spanish music. But they canceled the tour before it even started. They couldn’t stand each other anymore and broke off the relationship. Their intimate friendship was blown up. It took a decade to see artists reconciled and collaborating again. The fine line of love and hate between intimate enemies.