Thursday, July 19, 2007

Regional Dancing

Several weeks have passed since the municipal and regional elections at the end of May, but some complicated politics mean that the question of who governs still isn't resolved in all cases. Most complicated of all has been the case of Navarra, where we have witnessed a very strange and slightly farcical negotiating process. The result of the elections in the region left the Partido Popular (PP) - known there as the UPN - short of an overall majority. This left open the possibility of a coalition government being formed by the PSOE and the alliance of Basque nationalist parties known as Nafarroa Bai (NaBai).

After several weeks, the negotiations between the PSOE and NaBai finally broke down last week, and the reason seems to be that the PSOE never wanted them to succeed. With apparent agreement on the program of the government, and with NaBai having agreed to drop any nationalist demands on the status of Navarra it seemed that the only thing left to agree was the composition of the government itself. That is where the PSOE put a significant spanner in the works, by demanding a significant presence of independents in the administration. They then declared the negotiations to be over. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that the whole negotiating process has been a pretence on the part of the PSOE, with no genuine intention of ever reaching an agreement. It has been evident that much of the national leadership is uncomfortable with the idea of an alliance with NaBai, for fear that the PP would exploit it in the rest of the country. This being Navarra, and not Cataluña, the national leadership gets its way.

It's not as if we haven't been here before, the "tripartit" in Cataluña caused the PP to make all sorts of extravagant claims and to demonise Esquerra Republicana as being the most evil creatures that ever existed. Obviously in the case of an agreement in Navarra they would have tried to do the same, along the lines of their hysterical campaign before the elections. However, given that none of this has worked it is hard to see what the PSOE are so scared about. Their local leader, Fernando Puras, has now been reported as saying that he sees fresh elections as the best solution. Given that the only outcome likely to change the current situation would be an overall majority for the PP he is effectively advocating this as the solution to the impasse. Maybe he will even call on his supporters not to vote, wanting your opponents to win so that you are not placed in a delicate position is taking things a bit too far.

Meanwhile, interim PP leader Mariano Rajoy has presented a proposal for a new electoral law which would make it impossible for parties with less than 30% of the vote to form a government. The proposal is essentially a result of the inability of the PP to form alliances with other parties, and amongst other curious effects would mean that no party at all would be allowed to govern in Barcelona. All Rajoy needs to do now is add a clause forbidding parties whose names contain the words "Izquierda", "Socialista" or "Nacionalista" from participating in elections and success for the PP is almost guaranteed. Oh, but maybe Spain has been down that road before?

6 comments:

Txemi said...

I am impressed by your analisis of what happened in Navarra, you get it correct, very good for a foreigner!

We are likely going to have new elections after the summer and if that happens I expect a UPN victory and the PSN-PSOE vote collapsing ever more. A lot of people that have voted PSOE are very unhappy here. They will either not vote at the next elections, vote IU or some of them may even vote NaiBai.

With two fiascos in Navarra and Valencia, the PSOE is risking the General Elections next year.

Graeme said...

That's if we don't count Madrid as a fiasco too! Thankfully, the PP is still doing its best not to take full advantage of the opportunities offered to them. It's a shame that the voters of Navarra can't be offered a genuine alternative.

Evaristo said...

Well, I understand the disappointment for PSN voters, but it is not so simple. I mean NaBai is also not making it very easy. Of course they also have to make sure that they don't disappoint their voters, but I don't agree that this thing is only a matter of national politics (in order to avoid loss of votes in the rest of Spain). The fact is that NaBai is a legal, democratic party that wants something that PSOE does not want. They are of course not the same as ETA, as PP says, but that does not mean that they are the same as PSOE either...

Graeme said...

You're quite right to say that NaBai is not the same as the PSOE, but then nor are Esquerra Republicana the same, yet they still manage to reach agreements. NaBai have effectively dropped their nationalist demands during the negotiations, so the PSOE cannot argue that this was the problem. Indeed, they even agreed a document together with Izquierda Unida and NaBai that was to form the basis of that government. Then the PSOE pulled the plug on the whole thing, when only the remaining details of sharing out the positions in the government was left to be agreed.

That's the problem, there was no fundamental local issue preventing them from reaching an agreement and getting the PP out of power. Now, according to the latest reports, they are going to let the PP form a minority administration. Maybe, if they win the general election, they will then want to depose the PP from power again - but by that time NaBai will have increased their price. After all, they will not be the ones responsible for letting the PP back into government in Navarra.

Rab said...

This sorry episode in Navarra shows that the federalist pretence of the PSOE, especially in Catalonia via the PSC is all a fallacy.
There is not “talante” any more, just command and control from the centre.

Your analysis is correct, as recent events have proved, but you also write that "This being Navarra, and not Cataluña, the national leadership gets its way".
Well, I would not be surprised if Montilla and the PSC-PSOE were to drop ERC before the Spanish elections through some manufactured, overblown political rammy. Wish I could put a bet on it...

Graeme said...

I might take you up on your bet Rab. What the government needs in Cataluña for the elections is to motivate its supporters there to go out and vote. I don't think they'll achieve that by dynamiting the tripartit. In terms of its contribution to the possibility of winning the general election for the PSOE, Cataluña is definitely not Navarra. On the other hand, I would be less surprised if ERC tried something before the election, they have a tendency to try and play at being in government and opposition at the same time.

A depressing finale in Navarra, but confirmation if it was needed of who was really pulling the strings.