MADRID – Pedro Sanchez’s successful formation of a new coalition government in Spain far from puts an end to the country’s political instability given his minority standing in the chamber and the ongoing fallout in Catalonia.
A pair of political analysts agree that the government will likely not last beyond two or three years.
Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Sanchez was sworn-in in the presence of King Felipe VI on Wednesday a day after his proposed coalition government with the left-wing Unidas Podemos (“United We Can”) made it through Parliament with a tight 167 votes in favor to 165 against and 18 abstentions.
He said he would announce his new cabinet in the coming week.
Having served as an acting government since the inconclusive April 28 elections, the creation of a functioning government might come as a relief to some but it is unlikely to end the instability that had dogged Spain’s politics since 2015, during which time voters have been called to the polls four times.
Jaime Ferri, the director of the political science department at the Complutense University in Madrid described it as “unstable stability.”
Lluis Orriols, a professor of political science at the Carlos III University in Getafe, predicts “several sources of instability.”
Both agreed on three destabilizing factors: the weak, simple majority of the coalition government, unpredictable political developments in Catalonia, where a strong independence campaign is ongoing, and the hostility shown by the country’s right-wing toward Sanchez.
The next Spanish government will be the first coalition in the country’s modern democratic history and although frictions are to be expected between PSOE and Podemos, its main problem is that it has no real majority in Parliament and depends on the cooperation of regional separatists, including the “unpredictable” Catalan ERC, Orriols said.
The left-wing ERC has set its sights on taking over the regional Catalan parliament in elections slated for this year, but it will first have to dislodge another separatist entity, the conservative JxCat.
The ups and downs of Catalan politics and the battle for power in Barcelona could impact on the state of play in the national Parliament in Madrid.
“We’re entering a particularly difficult year,” Orriols said.
Spain’s lower chamber of lawmaking, known as the Congress of Deputies, has been severely fragmented since the 2015 elections with the arrival of new parties such as Podemos, the center-right Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) and, more recently, the far-right Vox.
The repeat elections on November 10, which failed to break the deadlock, delivered a record 19 parties to Parliament.
The only way to form a large majority government, therefore, would be to combine the forces of the PSOE and the conservative Popular Party, taking a leaf from Germany’s book.
“Neither (of the leaders) want that,” Ferri said.
The prospect of a grand coalition, however, seems even more difficult at the moment given the vitriol coming from the Spanish right-wing, which defines Podemos as “communist” and takes major issue with Sanchez’s reliance on pro-Catalan separatist parties.
“The aggressiveness from the opposition will be tremendous,” Ferri said.
Orriols said: “Experience tells us that if the government is in the minority, it does not last four years, much less. Life expectancy is much lower.”