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.
9 years ago Spanish people protested on mass against austerity under the banner of the 15-M movement. They then formed a party (Podemos). Today they are in government for the first time. No wonder their leader Pablo Iglesias (now VP of Spain) is in tears pic.twitter.com/qRnWgZWB7D
— Josh Feldberg 🐦 (@JoshFeldberg) January 7, 2020
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.
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.
Good news from Spain as left-wing government has received vote of confidence by the Parliament. Sanchez, Iglesias and Garzon ready to implement a progressive agenda.
— EU Progressive Forum (@EUproForum) January 7, 2020
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:
Today the progressive coalition government has been approved, a very important day for Spain. Fight against climate change, social policies, education and public health, yes you can!💪💪 pic.twitter.com/hdWj8f3TSm
— Julia Elx 💖 🇪🇸 (@ElxJulia) January 7, 2020
In politically dark times, some hope. Spain's first leftwing coalition since the Second Republic in the 1930s has taken office. A horrific right-wing onslaught – including from the fascist 'Vox' – tried to stop it.
Like Portugal, let's hope it can show the world an alternative.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) January 7, 2020
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.
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