Sunday, March 26

The Andalusian PSOE takes oxygen after ruling out the advance and designs its campaign against an alliance of PP and Vox

The elections in Castilla y León have given the Andalusian PSOE two important things it needed: time and a story for the campaign. The Andalusian socialists, still in the reconstruction phase after the succession of Susana Díaz by Juan Espadas, regain oxygen as the imminent electoral advance dissipates, after President Juan Manuel Moreno has stopped the electoral machinery in its tracks after verifying the push of Vox in Castile and León.

Sánchez urges the PP to break all its agreements with Vox if it wants the PSOE to abstain in Castilla y León

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At the PSOE-A headquarters, they are now more relaxed because they are aware that their new leader and candidate still needs a few months to make himself known in much of Andalusia. However, Espadas is convinced that Moreno will not postpone the elections beyond June, as he himself advanced months ago, considering the legislature closed with this period of sessions, and thus he has transferred it to his people -and to the federal leadership in Ferraz–. “It is not convenient for the Andalusian president to further delay a legislature that is politically dead, because it would give more time for his management errors to be seen,” sources close to Espadas explain.

This is not the message conveyed by all the voices in the Palacio de San Telmo consulted by this newspaper. 24 hours after the elections in Castilla y León, the Junta’s own spokesman took it upon himself to turn the official message completely around, burying the theory of the “parliamentary blockade” that would justify the advance and displaying a “solid stability”, which It allows to agree with the PSOE and with Vox, and rush the mandate until November 27, the legal deadline to hold the elections.

The Swords team faces the next elections with “vertigo”, against a Moreno consolidated in his institutional and moderate profile. They are aware of their two main weaknesses: a leader yet to be consolidated, a little-known candidate; and on the other hand, the heritage of 37 years of socialist governments, which the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox use as a mantra to discredit any political proposal of Swords, any initiative, any electoral promise that always collides with the reply: “Why not did you do it when you ruled? Another of the weaknesses of the Andalusian socialists is that the fear of a right-wing government has been lost after decades of uninterrupted power from the left.

Facing 37 years of socialism

But the Andalusian PSOE, which has followed the elections in Castilla y León with special attention, sees an opportunity in what happened on 13F. The fiasco of the PP this Sunday and the possibility that Vox ends up entering the new government of Alfonso Fernández Mañueco has given the PSOE the weighty political story they needed to refute criticism for the 37 years of socialism in power: “Either govern the PP with the extreme right or the PSOE governs with the other lefts”. Swords clings to that binomial to reposition himself on the political board as an equal against Moreno, and to stir up disenchanted left-wing voters with fear of the extreme right. “In these elections, either you vote for something or you vote against something,” they say in San Vicente, aware that the PSOE brand is still weak and they need to play all the cards to “vote against something.”

The socialist leader was asked this Tuesday about the risks of repeating the speech “the wolf is coming”, in reference to the extreme right, given the little result it gave in the Andalusian elections of 2018. Within the PSOE there is a lot of discussion this strategy, because there are those who think that many Vox voters do not identify themselves as far-right voters, and because they believe that the three years of Moreno’s presidency have managed to dispel Andalusians’ sociological fear of a right-wing government. Espadas responds that “it is not about speaking to citizens like small children who are frightened. They are not appeals to fear, but to provide information on the setbacks of rights and the involution in democratic terms that the coming to power of Vox, a party that attacks the core of social achievements, starting with self-government itself.

Cordon sanitaire to Vox

From now on, Espadas will harass the Andalusian president with a question that will hardly get an answer before the elections, but that could become visible sooner rather than later in Castilla y León: “Is Moreno willing to form a government with Vox?” This debate has also crept into the PSOE, when some leaders have argued that the Socialists should abstain from the investiture of Mañueco to prevent at all costs the extreme right from entering an Executive, that of the largest region in Spain. The leader of the Andalusian Socialists has become uncomfortable, once again, for being forced to respond to an unknown that he believes the PP must resolve first. “What ability does the PSOE have to end up being the sauce for all dishes”, he lamented, but finally answered clearly: “Why abstain? To invest a president of the PP and the next day agree on a Budget and the rest of the measures with Vox?”.

The PSOE won the Andalusian elections of 2018 with the worst result in its history: 33 deputies, compared to 26 from the PP -also on its electoral ground-, 21 from Ciudadanos, 17 from Adelante Andalucía (Podemos-IU) and 12 from Vox . Espadas is convinced that the Andalusian PP has an electoral ceiling in Andalusia that makes it impossible for it to reach an absolute majority. At the moment, that electoral ceiling was set at the 50 deputies that Javier Arenas won in the 2012 elections, the only ones that the PP has won over the Socialists, although they later coalesced with the IU to continue governing. That was a scenario where bipartisanship still survived, difficult to extrapolate to a reality as fragmented as today.

The general secretary of the Andalusian PSOE continues to maintain the month of June as the most likely date for the Andalusians, in part, because he needs to have his supporters, his mayors, his militancy stressed. The former councilor of Seville has relied on the muscle of the PSOE mayors throughout Andalusia – where they govern 65% of municipalities – to act as a battering ram against the Board, but above all to mobilize his electoral base. Recovering those 700,000 left-wing voters who stayed at home in 2018 –400,000 from the PSOE and 300,000 from Adelante Andalucía– is essential to dispute the PP for the first position in the Andalusians, “because it will depend on it that the remains of votes in some provinces inflate Moreno’s income statement or ours”, explain sources close to the leader.

“This is what has happened to Luis Tudanca in Castilla y León,” he explains: that a handful of votes catapults you up four or five seats or leaves you stuck where you are. “That is why this battle is being waged for first place between the PP and PSOE,” these sources abound, and then the second problem will come, which is adding a leftist bloc that today “does not exist.” “The fragmentation of parties in the progressive wing harms us. It is essential that we do our homework and maintain the first position as the most voted force in all provinces,” they sentence. In 2018, the PSOE won in seven of the eight provinces, all except Almería.

Unions in the streets

The Andalusian Socialists face the electoral campaign accompanied by a wave of union protests due to the deterioration of public health. CCOO and UGT have convened next Saturday mobilizations in all the Andalusian provinces against “the collapse of public health, the lack of personnel and the transfer of resources to the private one”. The PSOE and the rest of the leftist forces will join the protests, which are of great concern to the Moreno government. The president of the Board summoned the union leaders, Nuria López (CCOO) and Carmen Castilla (UGT), to try to recover social peace. He offered them to process the Institutional Participation Law – a trade union demand for two decades – and co-manage European funds and the design of strategic projects.

Moreno hoped that the union organizations would call off Saturday’s mobilization, but they did not. This Tuesday, the government spokesman, Elías Bendodo, considered that social dialogue to be broken and accused both unions of “acting as the opposition’s loudspeaker” in demonstrations “which seem to be promoted by the PSOE”. This social tension in the streets pushes the electoral strategy of the Socialists, who are focusing all their efforts on discrediting the management of the Executive of PP and Citizens in public health. Espadas believes that the tide of protests will increase and that the president will try to take advantage of the sharp drop in infections in the coming months and the optimism of Andalusians after Easter, the Fair and other spring festivals to call in June, “a good month for job creation”.