Left-wing coalition forms government in Spain despite nationalist opposition

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Spain’s parliament has narrowly chosen Socialist (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez to form a new government as the head of a left-wing coalition.

The confidence vote – which Sánchez won by 167 votes against 165, with 18 abstentions – ends almost a year of political limbo for the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy. His party will lead a coalition with Unidas Podemos (‘United We Can’) as its junior partner.

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Sánchez needed the votes or abstention promise of an array of smaller parties to win. The hairline margin of victory, however, means it could still be difficult for the government’s policies to get parliamentary approval.

Unity necessary in the face of a growing far right

Over half of all voters in the April 2019 election in Spain voted for left-of-centre parties, but many media outlets highlighted the rise of the country’s far-right Vox party – as part of a trend of rising nationalism across Europe and the world. Coalition talks to form a left-wing government failed, however, and another election took place in November. And as Jacobin explained:

November’s electoral setbacks for both the PSOE and Podemos — in a climate of rising nationalist tensions, fed by the Catalan issue — instead rapidly drew them into a coalition.

Indeed, the Vox party became the country’s third-biggest party after November’s election.

It continued:

faced with rising Spanish nationalism, the alternative to this experiment [of] uniting the center-left and the radical-left is a government of the hard and extreme right. In this context, failure is not an option.

So PSOE and Unidas Podemos (UP) struck a coalition agreement which saw the Spanish parliament swear them into power on 7 January. The abstention of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), meanwhile, was key in facilitating the coalition’s success in forming a new government.

UP leader Pablo Iglesias will now serve as deputy prime minister, and the party will also have key roles like labour minister and equality minister. Alberto Garzón – the leader of Izquierda Unida (‘United Left’) – will be consumer minister.

Making coalitions work

Coalition governments are common across Europe. But this is Spain’s first since the country returned to democracy in 1978, three years after the death of long-time dictator Francisco Franco. And for some on the left, this has provided some hope in dark times:

Indeed, Portugal’s own left-of-centre unity government has achieved numerous successes in recent years. And it has shown that coming together both to end austerity and to defeat the rising far right is the best way forward. Hopefully, Spain’s coalition will overcome its obstacles and do the same.

Featured image via Carlos Delgado, with additional content via Press Association

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  • Show Comments
    1. Well I find the Catalan ushered in this new coalition by abstaining from voting in reading this article which shows a resolve to end the conflict.
      Wonderful news. Someone is thinking.
      The left. right centre, march of this war leaves this writer unimpressed. I must be ambidextrous mistaken by others as a political confusion.
      It feels like a social failing to notice what works for humantiy in all its mystery of trying to adapt to whatever hell it comes now.

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