Europe, Globe, United Kingdom

Spain experiences its worst institutional crisis

In 2015, the European country’s politics became chronically instable, with a very divided parliament faced with the emergence of two new forces (Podemos and Ciudadanos), which broke the historic supremacy of conservatives and social democrats.


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Eduardo Rodríguez-Baz


The Spanish are currently getting ready for a new polling date on the next 28th April, as a result of the deep crisis of the two-party system that has prevailed since the return of democracy, which began to fall apart four years ago.

In that short space of time, Spain experienced an unprecedented situation: two general elections (in December 2015 and June 2016), the attempted secession of Catalonia in 2017 and the fall of the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy.

A successful parliamentary motion of censure ended on 1st June 2018, with the leader of the right-wing Popular Party (PP) hounded by numerous corruption scandals in his party’s ranks and widely criticised for his immobility in the face of the Catalan separatist crisis.

The dismissal of Rajoy led the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, to the presidential Palace of Moncloa thanks to the support in the Congress of Deputies of the progressive coalition of Unidos Podemos and the Basque and Catalan nationalists.

After assuming power, Sanchez undertook the task of restoring deteriorated relations with Catalonia and tried to advance a negotiated solution to the entrenched territorial conflict in the prosperous north-eastern autonomous community of 7.5 million inhabitants.

However, the demand of the regional independence leader for a referendum on self-determination, unacceptable to the Secretary-General of the PSOE, hindered the negotiations.

Photo: Commons Wikimedia

On 13th February, the Catalan separatist parties with representation in the lower house, together with the PP and the Liberals of Citizens (Cs), rejected the social democratic leader’s budgets for 2019, which were essential to stay afloat.

Two days after his project of General State Budgets (PGEs) was overturned, Sánchez called for early legislative elections on 28th April.

In an appearance at La Moncloa, the president of the Government announced his decision to dissolve the Cortes (the bicameral parliament) – an act that was implemented on 5th March – and to call new general elections. “Between continuing to govern with some extended PGEs and handing it over to the Spanish people, I prefer the second option because this country must ‘continue to advance and progress’,” he said.

He thus alluded to the difficulty of being able to implement his social and economic measures with public spending inherited from the previous administration of Rajoy.

“A government has the obligation to fulfil its task, which is to pass laws and move forward, but when this is not possible due to parliamentary blocks, decisions must be made,” he said.

He considered, nevertheless, that there are “parliamentary defeats”, like the blocks to the PGEs, that are “social victories”, because the citizens already know what the PSOE’s roadmap is, he said.

Photo: Commons Wikimedia

The general elections of 28th April will be the third held by Spain in just over three years and will almost certainly leave behind a parliament even more divided than the current one.

The polls circulated so far place the PSOE as the foremost parliamentary force, but it doesn’t have the majority necessary to form a government alone.

The century-old social democratic organisation would take first place by winning between 115 and 119 of the 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies.

On the other hand, this result would not guarantee power to the Socialists, when the polls even outline a possible conservative majority formed by the PP, Cs and the extreme right-wingers of Vox, that would break into the Spanish parliament for the first time.

The territorial conflict in Catalonia, a region that in October 2017 carried out a frustrated attempt to break with Spain, will play an important role in the April elections, with the PP, Cs and Vox calling for a tougher position with the separatists.

According to the polls, the support of the Catalan parties could be decisive if the Secretary General of PSOE tried to form a government again after the next polling date.

PhFoto: Commons Wikimedia

Sanchez recently expressed his willingness to seek a constitutional solution to the serious Catalan secessionist dispute but refused to negotiate the prosperous north-eastern autonomous community’s right to self-determination.

The president of the Government promised before his party’s Federal Committee that the split with Catalonia will never be come to pass under a mandate presided by the centenarian social democratic group.

Despite the criticism of the conservative opposition, consisting of conservatives, liberals and the extreme right of Vox, the president continued to defend negotiation as the only way to reach a solution to the worst institutional crisis in this European country. He accused those three factions of using territorial aggression as an instrument of opposition, “when they know,” he said, “that it divides the country and weakens the State in its response to the independence movement.” (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email:

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