By Teresa Noguera Pinto
Three weeks before the election, opinion polls give the PP an advantage, but say Núñez Feijóo’s party needs a VOX regime. On the left, Yolanda Díaz has achieved the seemingly impossible and given hope back to the progressive and radical left.
A question remains, whose answer will only be confirmed in the polls: will the elections confirm the return of the two parties or the logic of constituencies and coalitions?
A call for change
Politics may throw up surprises, but everything points to either Feijo or Sánchez being asked to form a government after the July 23 election.
The PP, despite a slight decline in voting intentions, remains popular and focused on the call for change. At a time when Spanish households are losing much of their purchasing power in the OECD space, a shift through economic means that could be welcomed by voters is key.
At a campaign event in Barcelona this week (no coincidence in politics), Feijóo presented the main lines of his economic plan. With the aim of placing Spain on the stage of European economic growth, the PP is committed to “legal protection, job creation and investment attraction”. Condemning Sanchismo’s “economic populism,” the popular leader promises to audit public accounts and reduce debt, give companies more freedom, reduce financial pressure, make the pension system more flexible, implement a renewal program for the tourism sector and repeal the housing law. Big news on energy policy comes with a promise to reverse plans to shut down nuclear power plants installed in 2019.
In addition to the economy, the other major divide between the PP and PSOE is the issue of independence. In Barcelona, Feijo said the PP was “once again an effective, necessary and decisive party in Catalonia”, noting that Sánchez’s coalition partners were calling for a referendum and independence.
If there are those who say that Spain will return to two parties, most likely – according to opinion polls – the next government will be based on a coalition and not on a single party, since there is no chance for either PP or PSOE. 176 seats are required for majority. In this sense, elections can be analyzed as a conflict between two constituencies. A possible national alliance between the PP and the extreme right represented by Sanchismo, which unites the extreme progressive left and independence, VOX.
Above all, it was this dynamic of conflict and polarization that marked the campaign, with each crowd stirring their spirits: the threat of ‘Francoism’ and ‘misogyny’ on the one hand, and the power of ‘communists’, ‘philotaras’ and ‘conspirators’ on the other.
Left of sum and division
Anticipating this situation, the Left focuses on retaining power, trying to include and not divide. After Pedro Sánchez surprised his partners by calling early elections, the deputy leader of the government, Yolanda Díaz, achieved the seemingly impossible: she registered the Movimiento Sumar as a party, uniting political organizations to the left of the PSOE and “the broad consensus reached throughout the democratic period between the progressive and green forces.” and the plural.” The first step, according to Díaz’s team, is to “create an exciting, feminist and successful program that always puts social justice and climate justice at the center”.
But the contract was also subtracted and divided. Equality Minister Irene Montero is one of the most prominent figures in radical progressivism, responsible for controversial legislative initiatives such as the Trans Act and the ‘Solo SC’ Act.
The exclusion of other key Unitaspodemos figures, such as Montero and Pablo Echenique, followed the calculation that militant extremism would be a toxic asset in general and decisive elections. The result displeased UnidasPodemos, marking another defeat for the party after electoral defeats in the autonomous and municipal elections. Speaking to Rac1, party founder Pablo Iglesias said avoiding Montero was a “terrible mistake” that “could electorally jeopardize a political space that is essential to prevent PP and VOX from ruling.” In an opinion piece, Iglesias accused Iolanda Díaz of “compromising her own political aims by seeing herself as the ultimate agent of a campaign of violence orchestrated by the most vicious apparatuses of the media, the judiciary and the political right.”
Excluding key figures from UnidasPodemos, the coalition led by Iolanda Díaz, which unites the forces of independence, opened another gap by adopting a more dubious stance in the face of its promise to create En Comú Pode. The electoral plan includes a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia.
Right to never add
If Montero’s extremism is seen as vulnerable to a progressive coalition, the biggest difficulty for the PP will be negotiations with the VOX, the force that the popular populace needs to govern in many regions.
In an interview with El Correo, PP spokesperson Borja Sémper said “at this moment, the best thing for the country is that VOX is not in the Spanish government.” Ruling out the possibility of a deal with VOX, Semper added that “there is only one PP, which is expressed in a subtle way in different places.”
But the reality is that the various strategies adopted by Abascal’s party since the May election reveal very different political responses to the dilemma that will be enacted nationally on the night of July 26.
In Valencia and the Balearic Islands, PP reached an agreement with VOX; Negotiations are in the final stages in Aragon and difficult to achieve in Murcia. But the PP’s biggest challenge is Extremadura, where candidate Maria Guardiola’s odds could cost the PP votes.
In Valencia, the agreement between the two parties assigns the position of Vice-President and three folders to VOX (Culture, Justice and Agriculture) and covers nine points: freedom, economy, rural world, reduction of public expenditure, education and language, public health, social policies, family and housing. , infrastructure and security. In particular, it provides for the abolition of the law on historical memory, a ‘severe’ reduction in taxes, academic freedom and the creation of a support office for victims of illegal occupation.
In the Balearics, the agreement stipulates that the PP will govern alone, but gives VOX the leadership of the regional parliament and the implementation of 110 measures agreed between the two parties.
Lesson of Extremadura
But it is in Extremadura, where the PP and PSOE got the same number of seats, but the Socialist List got more votes, that the formula of the red lines on the right is tested. Contrary to the agreement proposed by Feijo to Sánchez (rule by the most voted), popular candidate Maria Guardiola claimed the presidency of the region. But for that, it needs to guarantee the support of VOX, which in these circumstances, strengthens its negotiating power.
Maria Guardiola, the ‘Baroness’ and representative of the progressive wing of the PP, was forced to change strategy and discourse, underlining the red lines of separation from Abascal’s party (immigration and LGBTQ coalition), after saying several times that she would not agree with VOX under any circumstances.
The lack of agreement resulted in the PP losing the presidency and vice-president of the Extremadura parliament to the Socialists, earning Guardiola harsh criticism from party heavyweights such as Esperanza Aguirre and Isabel Ayuzo. When asked about Extremadura, Ayuzo said he was in favor of “not giving Sanchismo another minute of oxygen, not leaving the Spanish in the hands of the government, and only building client networks to keep themselves in power.” To change in Extremadura, it will be a big failure that will not be available to everyone [um acordo]».
Guardiola has reportedly been instructed to reduce his media exposure and tone down his tone towards VOX, saying “VOX is a constitutional party” and that he wants to “come to an agreement” for the benefit of Extremadura. He added that he would not allow “Extremadura to be used to bury a transitional government in Spain”.
Abascal, the main political beneficiary of Guardiola’s contradictions, recalled that if the popular candidate for the presidency of Extremadura wanted to make a deal with his party, he would have to “respect” his voters.
The lesson is clear: in representative democratic systems, change depends on the arithmetic of consequences. And the PP will need VOX votes – in Extremadura and Spain – to come to power.
VOX and PP have a common goal, which is to defeat Sanchismo. But if VOX is an ideological party with the freedom to position itself, PP is today a party that aims to win elections in a two-party environment.
If the two parties come together on important issues such as cutting spending and taxing the tax burden, denigrating housing law or rejecting freedom, many voters find VOX to be fundamentally different, with opposition to others. Defending immigration control and rejecting the 2030 Agenda requires a firm adherence to the ideological laws of the left.
On the campaign trail, VOX has highlighted these differences in an attempt to win right-wing conservative votes.
Also, for the elections, Abascal’s party strategy anticipates a situation where, although it is not certain, the PP will win, but it will require VOX. And Abascal doesn’t make life easy for Feijo, who remembers that his party is not the owner but the depository of the votes cast to him. A speech laying the groundwork that has already been tested in the regional context to impose points on Abascal’s agenda and demand his party’s presence in the national government. And it exposes the contradiction on the part of the PP, wanting to include VOX votes without giving representation to the claims and priorities of the depositors.
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