Spanish politics is presidential by definition. Yes, ours is a parliamentary system according to the Constitution, but the most important thing is the real world. And in that scenario there is a moment when the head of the Government is unbeatable. Only he decides when to appoint or remove ministers. If there is a Cabinet remodel in the making, he is the main star. It’s an immense power that really only lasts for a few hours. When the changes are announced, there is no going back. And you cannot renew the government every three months.
For political journalists, this is a sublime moment. The opportunity to develop theories about the strategies that Moncloa has opted for, identify the winners and losers, speculate on what may happen from now on. The opposition is left with the usual role, saying that everything is a paripe with puppets handled by the evil Fu Manchu. Even so, Casado wanted to innovate. Shocked, he said on Sunday that the ministers had been appointed “by hand,” when we all know that they are chosen with rigorous physical tests and a detailed examination of the works they presented in the master’s degree.
The most widespread balance is that we have witnessed “a real commotion”, as one of the articles has written. Moses has drawn the rod and has split the Red Sea in two so that the chosen people find the way they must travel. Interestingly, those same articles highlight something obvious. This Government has committed its future to the economic recovery that will occur when the pandemic continues to condition our lives, but no longer short-circuiting the economy. If the resurrection is real, the government parties will be able to win the elections that way, that is, as in 2019 and without fanfare. If not, there will be a political change.
There are three ministries that will take center stage in the remainder of the legislature. There are no changes to those portfolios. Nadia Calviño, Yolanda Díaz and María Jesús Montero continue in their positions and with the same power they had before. They are not so influenced by whether the same old people are in the Council of Ministers or there are new faces. The important thing is the same as before. Have the president’s confidence in fundamental decisions. Everything else is background music.
The decision to postpone raising the minimum wage until next year is a demonstration that Sánchez has not departed from the orthodox line of economic policy of the previous socialist governments, which can be easily detected if we examine the identity of all his economic vice presidents. Due to the level of public debt, the Spanish Government has been one of the most stingy – and therefore cautious – in direct aid during the pandemic. In the press, there is a fondness for describing Sánchez as a reckless guy addicted to risky and unexpected decisions. Nothing could be further from the reality in economic policy, which is also what the elections are won and lost with.
The average life expectancy of a Soviet soldier in the worst of the siege of Stalingrad is said to be 24 hours. Traditional politics is not so bloody, although it sometimes seems like it. Ministers last longer, only those who last the four years of a legislature are usually a minority. In Spanish politics, the exception was Mariano Rajoy, who was so bothered by breaking the routine and facing the most serious problems that the simple idea of communicating to a minister who had disappointed him produced a visceral rejection.
Typically, many ministers have the expiration date stamped on their foreheads. They are filling the bottle with the wear they assume until it reaches the stopper and begins to overflow and put the lost soil. From there, they are no longer useful. There are always exceptions. Grande-Marlaska does not have many supporters on the left and is fiercely harassed by the right. His permanence in the Government is a little mystery. Perhaps Sánchez thinks that anyone who replaces him would be in the same situation as him in six months. Or they are not willing to give the PP the trophy they want to hang at their headquarters before selling it.
The Government loses two protagonists of what the media call “heavyweights”, in reference to Carmen Calvo and José Luis Ábalos. For journalists, political ministers are the ones who go out to give interviews and talk about any topic, even if it is not from their Ministry. They are important because they offer headlines and serve to fill pages. However, they also carry their own backpack with controversies and wrong decisions that can end up ending them, as is the case with ministers who only talk about their own thing and if they are asked.
Calvo’s replacement is the logical consequence of having ceased to be a key element in the solution to possible internal divisions, as responsible for the coordination between ministries, to becoming part of the problem. The negotiation of the law on the rights of trans people left her in evidence. Regardless of her ideas on the matter, she should have prevented the open wound in the feminist movement from moving inside the Cabinet. The negotiation dragged on to the point where it was possible that there was no law, which would have had dire consequences for the government. In the end, others had to deal with solving the mess. Calvo was no longer part of the solution. It does not sound very sexy, but in politics you are to solve problems for those above, not to create them.
If Spanish politics continues to follow in the footsteps of the North American with this unbridled polarization, the key to the next elections will be the mobilization of the grassroots, of those already convinced in previous elections, and, whenever possible, look for a handful of the indifferent. This is even more true in the case of the two government parties. In that sense, it is logical that Sánchez approaches the PSOE and has sought for the remodeling of leaders who were on the side that wanted to end his political career in 2017.
That message of reconciliation – those who were defeated have the door open to return to national politics – will serve to make it clear to the PSOE that it is the party that is playing it in 2023, not just Sánchez. Another joke like the one in 2011 and they can spend a decade in opposition.
That alone justifies a change of government, one of those that can only be done once in each legislature.