World A New Spain Is Emerging That Drives Conservative Opponents Crazy

06:55  26 november  2020
06:55  26 november  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

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Spain is taking new measures to cut a spike in coronavirus cases, amid fears of a more widespread "second wave". Catalonia has closed its nightlife for two weeks but cities outside the north-eastern region are also seeing a surge. The UK says all returning from Spain must self-isolate.

(Bloomberg) -- Pedro Sanchez’s budget deal will shore up the foundations of his minority government and offer the chance of some political stability in Spain after five years of division and paralysis.

a person walking down a street next to tall buildings: A closed retail store in Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The Spanish central bank forecasts that the economy could shrink as much as 12.6% this year. © Bloomberg A closed retail store in Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The Spanish central bank forecasts that the economy could shrink as much as 12.6% this year.

The prospect has left his right-wing opponents furious.

In a country where ideological divisions run deep, the prime minister has already been vilified by conservatives for sealing a coalition agreement with the far-left group Podemos in January. To pass his spending plan, he’s cut deals with nationalists from Catalonia and the Basque Country who want independence from the rest of Spain.

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In response, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid region and one of Sanchez’s most acerbic critics, accused the premier of using money from taxpayers in the capital to buy support from regional allies -- a practice that is as old as Spanish democracy. All the same, she vowed to become “the worst nightmare of those who want to steal from Madrid.”

A coronavirus street art mural in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The Spanish central bank forecasts that the economy could shrink as much as 12.6% this year. © Bloomberg A coronavirus street art mural in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. The Spanish central bank forecasts that the economy could shrink as much as 12.6% this year.

Ayuso’s People’s Party and many of its supporters remain angry at Esquerra Republicana’s efforts to split Catalonia away from the rest of Spain in 2017. Sanchez’s willingness to do business with both Esquerra and Podemos has seen him frequently attacked as a “traitor” by opponents.

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Adding Bildu to his alliance makes the situation even worse. Bildu’s origins are in the left-wing separatist movements of the Basque-speaking northern region from which the terrorist group ETA also emerged and Ayuso’s PP regularly accuses the party of supporting terrorists.

Read More: The Rage Against Pedro Sanchez Is Tearing Spain Apart

In fact, the party has denounced violence on various occasions, but it’s reluctant to let its opponents set the agenda by forcing it to constantly discuss Basque terrorism of the past.

The Socialists argue that bringing Bildu into their orbit is a sign of Spain’s growing democratic maturity and the capacity for people with different viewpoints to work together.

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The fact that Bildu supports the budget “is part of this country’s democratic normality,” Socialist spokeswoman Adriana Lastra told lawmakers in Parliament earlier this month. “It is a success of Spanish democracy that left-wing Basques are part of the political institutions.”

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A succession of political storms over the past decade -- from the global financial crash and the European debt crisis to the turmoil in Catalonia -- have swept aside the old two-party system dominated by the Socialists and the PP. Since 2015, the country has had no stable government and the 2019 election saw the winning Socialists 56 votes short of a majority and five major national parties taking up blocks of seats.

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All the same, in the patchwork coalition that has formed around Sanchez’s budget, it’s possible to make out the beginnings of a path forward for Spain. The five parties involved totaled 50% of the vote last year, compared with 43% for the three main opposition parties spread across the political right.

It may be a fragile alliance but the potential to roll over budgets and the high bar for no-confidence votes in Spain means that even if there is more friction between, the parties the premier is likely to survive until the next election, which isn’t due until 2023.

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Before then, he’ll also have 73 billion euros ($87 billion) of recovery grants from the European Union to help him deliver on a pledge to make Spain greener, better equipped to engage with the digital economy and more equal. He’ll also be able to tap 87 billion euros of special loans from the EU over the next six years.

Perhaps more significantly, it’s a program where Spaniards who would rather their homeland was independent from Madrid still have a voice.

Esquerra and Bildu have traditionally been wary of negotiating with the central government. But after seeing Catalonia’s path to independence blocked and senior Esquerra leaders jailed for their role in the illegal referendum, the party’s new leadership has opted for pragmatism instead.

“Today is the culmination of a change of the paradigm of the past 40 years,” said Gabriel Rufian, Esquerra’s spokesman in the Spanish Parliament. “The state in its most progressive form of government possible is forced to depend on, to negotiate with republicanism, with left-wing pro-independence Catalans and Basques.”

As observers of politics in the U.K. as well as Spain will testify, handing more powers to regions can end up fueling separatist movements rather than satisfying them.

Sanchez is betting that instead, he’ll be able to persuade the millions of separatists that they can prosper within Spain.

It’s a potentially dangerous path. But with the result of last year’s election, it’s probably the only way possible to take the country forward.

With this week’s deal, Sanchez has bought himself three more years to make it work.

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