The lobbying that has taken place to promote a pact between the major Spanish parties over the economic crisis looks set to come to nothing. The initiative took off last week after the Catalan nationalists of Convergència i Unió (CiU) made an appeal for the governing PSOE to reach agreement on economic measures with the Partido Popular (PP). Then the king got involved, making it clear that he favoured such a pact and calling for "grandes esfuerzos" to get out of the crisis. A careful choice of words, had he used "sacrificios" instead of esfuerzos he might just have left himself open to some criticism.
Now when the king makes such a pronouncement it's difficult for the monarchist parties to criticise the initiative. Nevertheless, sources reliably close to the PP have made it clear that the party is furious with the royal intervention. The last thing in the world that the PP wants to do is to lose its main weapon against Zapatero's administration. A pact over the economy would remove their ability to use every consequence of the crisis for electoral benefit. The pact would mean sharing responsibility for tough measures instead of just maintaining a careful distance and criticising the government. Such seemingly responsible behaviour is beyond Mariano Rajoy's party, even though justice dictates that they should take their fair share of the credit for the collapse of the housing boom. Only amnesiacs or the deluded believe it started in 2004. In any case the Spanish right can never get used to the idea of a constitutional monarchy, it's a bit too modern for them and they still believe the monarch should always side with them.
Now CiU are also suspected of playing a political game with an eye on the Catalan elections later this year. By projecting such an image of responsibility in the face of the crisis they hope to broaden their appeal, as well as reminding nostalgics of the days when they were the main power brokers for minority national governments. They could still play that role if the government decides to do a deal with them, but then they would be the ones sharing the responsibility for unpopular measures. On economic issues CiU are the PP of Cataluña and would undoubtedly like to see even more market pleasing measures than those that have already been proposed.
From the government's point of view it's arguable whether they want a pact. On the one hand they wouldn't be so lonely, but on the other they only need seven additional supporters on each measure to get them approved. Izquierda Unida and the leftist nationalist parties are unlikely to provide those votes given the current pressure for cheaper firing, later retirement and massive public spending cuts. So that could leave things in the hands of CiU anyway. On Wednesday we get a parliamentary debate on the economy and even if Zapatero was to propose measures teken directly from the PP we can bet that Mariano Rajoy will oppose them. Of course such a situation is hypothetical because, despite claims that they have the solution to the crisis, nobody knows what measures the PP favours. The only concrete proposal they have made so far is to reduce taxes, an absurd proposal when the government is under pressure to slash the budget deficit at a moment when tax revenues have fallen through the floor.