Monday, August 2

The keys to the new Government of Pedro Sánchez

1. Three years after his arrival to the presidency, and with thirty months of the legislature ahead, Pedro Sánchez revolutionized the Government with a far-reaching reform; more ambitious than almost everyone in the Council of Ministers expected and that allows him to regain political initiative. Three heavyweights come out of the Executive: Vice President Carmen Calvo, Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos and Chief of Staff Iván Redondo. And a new generation of socialist leaders enters, the vast majority women, with experience in municipal management and the ability to become an electoral poster for their territories in the future.

2. Nadia Calviño is promoted to first vice president, but does not increase her powers. It will send the same, which was already a lot, for what the Ministry of Economy supposes with the arrival of European funds. But who will be the right hand of Pedro Sánchez and will inherit the coordination functions of the Government and the coalition that Carmen Calvo had will be Félix Bolaños, new Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory.

3. Before this crisis arrived, Félix Bolaños was already one of the key people in the Government. In practice, he already managed many of the competencies that, until today, he did not formally have. Together with Iván Redondo, he was the leader who spent the most time with the president and carried out a good part of his decisions. Unlike Redondo, Bolaños went unnoticed, and was the true power in the shadows. In the de facto organization chart, Bolaños was much more than a secretary general of the Presidency: more than many ministers. In the new organization chart, she will be nominally a minister, but will assume functions that, until now, a vice president had.

4. Félix Bolaños rises as a strong man, leaves Ivan Redondo, with the one that long ago collided. “Besides knowing how to win and knowing how to lose, you have to know how to stop,” Redondo wrote in his farewell. The chief of staff who has accumulated the most power in a Spanish government assures that it is he who leaves because he has already completed a stage and to focus on his personal life (a story that other sources in La Moncloa disagree with). He comes out after accompanying Pedro Sánchez from the opposition to La Moncloa and designing, for better and for worse, a good part of the most important strategic decisions of the last three years. Among his greatest successes, the Salvador Illa campaign in Catalonia. Among its great failures, the PSOE campaign in Madrid. His technical and non-political profile, his influence on Sánchez and his past as an advisor to the PP wrought him many enmities in the Government and in the party from the first moment – starting with former Vice President Carmen Calvo and continuing with the Deputy Secretary General of the PSOE, Adriana Lastra–. A few months ago, Redondo turned 40 years old.

5. Carmen Calvo comes out, whose retirement was sung and has more to do with exhaustion in a position that squeezes people and requires greater political push. Also with its explosive nature, which derailed some delicate negotiations with United We Can, such as that of the ‘trans law’ (which was later arranged, from the kitchen, by Félix Bolaños).

6. There is not much surprise about Calvo. Yes in the fall of José Luis Ábalos, who will not continue as number three of the PSOE in the next congress. Both Ábalos and Calvo were part of the hard core of Pedro Sánchez’s faithful, of those who were by his side when almost all the party leaders abandoned him. From La Moncloa they point out as arguments for his cessation the wear of his political figure and also the need for a generational change in the new PSOE, where Adriana Lastra will continue but not most of the sanchistas of the first batch.

7. With this crisis of Government – which comes shortly after the definitive defeat of Susana Díaz – the civil war in the PSOE that was the federal committee of October 1, 2016 and the subsequent victory of Sánchez in the primaries is completely closed . The most faithful faithful of Sanchismo leave, several socialist leaders enter the Government who were on rival sides to Pedro Sánchez in those primaries. Óscar López –Redondo’s replacement– supported Patxi López. And a large part of the new ministers – Pilar Alegría, Isabel Rodríguez and Diana Morant – were on the side of Susana Díaz in 2017.

8. The new Government spokesperson and Minister of Territorial Policy, Isabel Rodríguez, is from Abenojar (Ciudad Real). The new Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, from Zaragoza. The new Minister of Science, Diana Morant, is from Gandía (Valencia). The new Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, is from Gavà (Barcelona). All of them have municipal experience. They all share a generation, are in their forties, and did not know the Franco regime. All have been members of the PSOE for years. And all of them will have from the Government the opportunity to become referents of the party and succeed the barons (and men) of the PSOE in these territories.

9. The new government breaks a new record for women (63%). Among them, the Madrid judge Pilar Llop, who changes the presidency of the Senate for the Ministry of Justice. For protocol purposes it is a downgrade; it was the fourth authority of the state. But, without a doubt, it comes out winning with the change, because the visibility of the Senate is almost nil and because it assumes one of the portfolios with the most political projection, and where more remains to be done. Justice continues to be one of the open fronts of the Government: by the ‘lawfare’ of the right and a good part of the judiciary, by the blockade of the PP to the renewal of the CGPJ and by the enormous pending task of the new law that will give the instruction to prosecutors. Llop, from Justice, is also positioned as a possible electoral poster of the PSOE for the Madrid elections, in two years.

10. In Foreign Affairs, Arantxa González Laya pays for the consequences of the diplomatic crisis with Morocco, a conflict that neither this Government nor any other can afford. And José Manuel Albares enters, to whom Sánchez is promoted after passing through the Moncloa cabinet.

11. After only a few months in Territorial Policy – where he agreed with the unions a solution for the important conflict of the interim -, Miquel Iceta goes to Culture and Sports; not of his own free will and after Sánchez explored other profiles for the position. He replaces José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, from PSM, who has not managed to take advantage of the portfolio to become a possible candidate for Madrid, as Sánchez expected. Iceta will have to manage a portfolio full of fires after the crisis that the pandemic has caused for culture.

12. Another relevant change that has been little underlined is that of María Jesús Montero. He leaves the spokesperson –which Isabel Rodríguez will occupy–, but wins the important Public Service competencies, which until now had been carried out by the Iceta ministry. The officials will now depend on it.

13. Óscar López, the new director of the Sánchez Cabinet replacing Redondo, he was for many years one of Pedro Sánchez’s closest personal friends. He shared adventures with him as a youth, when they both worked as advisers in the European Parliament. Both were political sons of Pepe Blanco. Like the third of the group, Antonio Hernando – some in the PSOE meanly called this trio “the handsome, the ugly and the bad” (or “the tall one”, in another version of the same nickname) -. And when ‘the handsome’ arrived at the general secretary of the PSOE, in 2014, his two old friends accompanied him on the ascent. Until the federal committee of the PSOE in 2016 arrived, where a palace coup forced the resignation of Sánchez for his opposition to allowing the investiture of Rajoy.

14. Sánchez took a long time to forgive Hernando, someone he talked to almost more than his wife: every night, before going to bed, until he betrayed him. Today he is out of politics. Óscar López opted for Patxi López and was left out, but he never fell completely out of favor; Sánchez later gave him the presidency of Paradores. Now he recovers him to his hard core, in a position where trust is essential.

15. While Félix Bolaños will be in charge of political management, Oscar López will lead strategic management, campaigns and communication. The Secretary of State for Communication will continue to depend on his cabinet, where the replacement of Miguel Ángel Oliver will be taken for granted in a few days –after the government crisis, changes will come later in many Secretaries of State–. For that position, key for the Government, a less journalistic and more political appointment is expected.

16. Change half of Government on the side of the PSOE. But not a single portfolio moves in United We Can. Despite the fact that initially a reduction of positions in the Council of Ministers was considered -two less for the PSOE, one less for UP-, the operation was impossible due to the delicate internal balance of a vice president and possible electoral candidate (if she wants, which is still not sure) that organically it does not militate in Podemos or in the commons or in IU.

17. The priorities of the new government? Leave the pandemic completely behind, manage an economic recovery that will be explosive, combat the inequality that this crisis has left, take advantage of European funds that can transform the Spanish economy forever, take care of the internal relations of a coalition where too many unnecessary sparks continue to jump. (the last one, that of meat) … And also to survive an opposition that continues to give no quarter, still unaware that this government has two and a half years ahead.

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