Saturday, September 18

Some keys to the beginning of the political course

“All the governments are of coalition, of all the ministers against the one of Economy”. These were the words that Chancellor Helmuth Kohl said to his Spanish namesake, Felipe González, at a meeting in which the German politician recommended that he always support the head of that ministerial portfolio. President Sánchez seems to have taken good note of that suggestion if we stick to the changes of government that he carried out last July when – in a probable warning to sailors – he appointed Nadia Calviño, the Minister of Economy, Vice President first of the Government. The president had a presumption – probably correctly – that the economy was going to be, as almost always, the most important issue in the coming months and on which his electoral aspirations are likely to pivot.

Thus, at the strictly national level, the next few months will be marked by the negotiations for the approval of the next General State Budgets that the Prime Minister has promised to carry out before the end of the year. This implies having to negotiate with its parliamentary partners, starting with the agreement between the two parties in the Government.

United Podemos has already advanced that it will put on the table certain issues that it considers to be priorities such as tax reform, the repeal of the labor reform of the previous PP Government, the increase in the minimum interprofessional wage and the approval of a housing law that regulates the rent. Without forgetting, of course, the reform of the electricity market. A series of measures with a direct economic impact on the pocket of the Spaniards – the electoral expectations of the Government go through the economic improvement that citizens personally perceive -, but which may collide with the claims of some social agents (employers, energy companies … ); with those of the European Commission (always attentive to how the funds are managed and what they are dedicated to); and with those of the Minister of Economy herself.

For now, the negotiation on the increase in the SMI seems to have fallen on the side of United We Can: although some fringes are missing, the Government has already proposed to raise the minimum wage this year by a maximum of 19 euros, to 969 euros.

Negotiations with the other investiture partners that are likely to have the greatest impact are those involving the Catalan parties. The week of September 13, the first meeting of the dialogue table between the Government of Spain and the Government is scheduled. Although the president of the Generalitat himself, Pere Aragonés, said at the beginning of July that the vote of his party for the PGE was not going to be linked to this negotiating table – the economy will be the main protagonist – it seems difficult for you to issues such as the procés or a future referendum on the independence of Catalonia are not part of the dialogue – even if only as a measure of pressure in the negotiations.

A final key for this autumn-winter is related to the renewal of the constitutional bodies: the Court of Accounts, the vacancies of the Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman, the RTVE Board of Directors and the General Council of the Judiciary. The lack of confidence in the Executive of Sánchez is the reason mentioned by the PP for not reaching agreements with the Government. But the truth is that the PP seems to feel comfortable in the permanent confrontation with the Government, especially now that most polls place it as the leading political force in the whole of Spain and with the possibility of joining together with the other political forces of the right more than the 175 seats needed to reach the Government. But the electoral film has not yet begun and in politics mistaking a frame for the end of the film can be a fatal mistake.

In the international context, it is worth highlighting two events that will undoubtedly also affect Spanish politics: the Afghan crisis and the German federal elections on September 26.

The entry of the Taliban into Kabul and their control of the Afghan government have led to an immediate massive request for asylum by Afghan citizens on European territory, including our country. A management that in the case of the Spanish Government has been well evaluated by the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, but on which there are still no survey data that allow us to know how the Spaniards have valued it.

This event, coupled with the return to their country of more than 700 Moroccans (including some minors) agreed by the Government of Spain and Morocco, have once again put the migration issue on the table. A debate that could drag on in the coming months if the political situation in Afghanistan leads to a migration crisis.

If this is the case, that is, if migration is at the center of the political and media agenda, there are two issues to pay attention to. One, the possible frictions that the management of this issue may generate between the two Government partners. PSOE and United We Can have expressed different points of view on how the crisis in Ceuta has been resolved and, in general, on the return policy of people who enter our country illegally.

Two, the discourse that the PP will keep as the main opposition party on the immigration issue and how the popular will resolve their programmatic and electoral competition with Vox on this issue: will the popular more moderate positions adopt in line with the conservative and liberal parties of the European Union, or will its inter-bloc competition with Vox take it to more extreme positions and aligned with the most ultras and illiberal currents of some European countries?

On the other hand, in the federal elections at the end of September, Germany – and therefore Europe – faces a change of leadership at a momentous time for the European economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. After 16 years in office, Angela Merkel will no longer be the CDU’s candidate for the German Chancellery. His replacement, Armin Laschet, does not have the electoral support of his predecessor, according to most polls published in recent weeks. In fact, the latest data points to the SPD, led by Olaf Scholz, as the first political force. Today polls estimate up to five possible viable coalitions in which the Social Democrats could be part of four of them. A change of leadership in the heart of Europe that, due to political and ideological affinity, could benefit the Government of Spain.

In any case, the combination of the migration crisis and the exit from the economic crisis – the priority for the citizens of European countries seems to be the distribution of the economic resources of the economic stimulus package that the NextGenerationUE funds represent – make up a favorable climate so that the European extreme right parties launch proclamations of a markedly nationalist tinge (the “we first”) as an electoral claim. Attentive to the possible electoral consequences – in Germany and in the rest of Europe – of these two events.

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