Nobody suspected and nobody knew. Only a few were certain that the changes would be in July and not in the fall. Not even its narrowest circle. Everyone was surprised and only a couple of people were notified by Pedro Sánchez, at around eight in the morning on Saturday, with a laconic: “The dance begins.” At 9 o’clock, the president began calling the ministers he had decided to remove from the government. One after another they were fitting the news. Carmen Calvo already had it digested. “She is calm, relieved and with an obvious physical deterioration. But she is a lady who, despite accumulating notable differences with Sánchez in recent times, leaves with gratitude above anything else,” says a minister.
Juan Carlos Campo feels deeply hurt, after having “eaten” the wear and tear due to the pardons of the procés leaders. Nobody explains what happened to José Luis Ábalos, not even himself, who is awaiting a more in-depth conversation than the one he had with the president on Saturday. José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes has fitted it with sportsmanship, although he is aware that with the culture at half gas due to the pandemic and a team that gave him little he could do. Iván Redondo is still building alternative stories to what happened because what no one – absolutely no one – suspected was that in that round the president was going to include his hitherto chief of staff. Not even he, who had transferred his own team days before the remodeling that Sánchez was preparing, would be a minister, specifically of the Presidency. In the post-truth era, he later said that it was what the president had offered him, and he refused. It was not so. He asked for the portfolio that Félix Bolaños occupies from today in order to have the opportunity to defend himself from attacks from which, from a position without public exposure, he could not compensate. Sánchez told him “no” and something else, next chapter, end of story.
In Moncloa they say that the president had long lost confidence in his chief of staff and that with the failed 4M campaign led by Redondo, he already had in mind relieving him of his position. The lace was given, they say, the episode of the “express walk” that Sánchez had with Joe Biden in a NATO corridor and that Redondo sold to the media as if it were going to be the image of the Camp David agreements.
The dismissal of Iván Redondo has been, without a doubt, the piece of the Government that nobody expected Sánchez to do without. And it will not be because not many had recommended it. “What did you think of the changes?” The president asked a collaborator. “I like them, but the exit that surprises me the most is that of Ivan,” he replied. “It was a stage already accomplished. Do you like it?” Asked the president laconically. “Much,” concluded his interlocutor instantly.
That “much” was revealing of the animosity that the former almighty Redondo aroused in La Moncloa and in the PSOE, where they have celebrated with great enthusiasm his replacement by Óscar López, a party person with whom the PSOE and the Government will work from now on with the sight set on the 2023 elections, since the changes in Sánchez’s cabinet pursue exactly that: activate the Executive in this second half of the legislature with an eye already set on the general elections and “counting on the PSOE, who is with whom it has to be counted, and not with gurus other than acronyms, “adds a socialist.
No one doubts that after the most profound remodeling that a government has experienced in democracy, Sánchez seeks, in addition to launching a message that in La Moncloa only he commands, a turn towards the PSOE and a profound change that sells economic recovery, ecology, feminization, social progress and optimism. The president will try to make the economic reactivation profitable with the arrival of European funds for the recovery and incidentally turn around the polls that today reflect a clear deterioration of the PSOE, after the management of the pandemic, the granting of pardons to the independentistas and the failure of the autonomic elections of the 4M. Only time will tell if it will coincide with the municipal and regional elections in the spring of 2023 or if it will exhaust the mandate, as is its intention, until the end of that year.
Outshine Yolanda Díaz
Be that as it may, the perception in Moncloa is that we are facing a new government because Sánchez wants a long term, win the next elections and project out a cabinet that works mainly around three axes: politicization –with socialist profiles–, territorialization and feminization. Opting for politicians of proven solvency at the polls in their respective territories and dispensing with the most technical and independent profiles – such as Laya in Foreign Affairs, Campo in Justice or Duque in Science – is to bet everything on a battle that is presumed tough in the face of the The most ideological right wing that the PP has led in decades, which has been fighting dog-face in Congress for months and for which Unidos Podemos is not in a good place, although the permanence of all its ministers, after the remodeling, may seem a sign of strength that the PSOE does not read as such.
In fact, Sánchez increases the quota of women in his cabinet, with young and solvent profiles, which can overshadow the brilliance that Yolanda Díaz, a vice president of the Podemos quota, who is not a member of the party and therefore was not in a position to make changes to the portfolios assigned to the purple ones, even if it had been his wish.
Sánchez’s gaze is already in 2023. He has shown it with the profound remodeling of the cabinet and will make a new demonstration of it in the 40th Federal Congress of the PSOE to be held in October, an appointment that he faces from the conviction of having fulfilled his commitment to the current management and paid the favors due to those who helped him recover the general secretariat in 2017. In fact, he already pointed the way to change three months ago with the appointment of the speakers for the congress, which aroused suspicions among the members of the current Executive.
In the PSOE, as in the Government, he wants to turn the page and turn on the high lights. He understands that he has already met those who helped him regain the leadership of the party and his gaze points only to the future. In fact, with the appointment of the speakers of the next Federal Congress already in April, he indicated what the future of the party will be, in addition to the composition of its next Executive to lay the foundations of the next territorial leaderships and designate the team that will accompany him in this new time. Except for Adriana Lastra, in the general vice-secretary, and Santos Cerdán, in Territorial Coordination, the rest of the management is all susceptible to being relieved in October. More now that Sánchez has once again demonstrated by dispensing with Ábalos as minister and announcing that he will not continue as Secretary of Organization of the PSOE that nobody is essential and that the only untouchable piece in the Government and in the party is himself.