Professor Gratius, what is the motivation of the Spaniards to elect a new parliament for the fourth time in four years on Sunday?
There is a certain political fatigue. The country has been in permanent election campaign for years. The image of the parties is damaged, the top politicians are relatively poorly valued, regardless of which camp they come from. Spain finally needs a functioning government.
According to the polls, this election should not give stable majorities.
The option of incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez remains a minority government, as he made clear in the election debate. But even if he succeeds in getting the conservatives and the right-wing Ciudadanos party to abstain, he will not be able to hold such a government for four years.
After the previous election in April, the talks between Sánchez 'Socialist PSOE and Pablo Iglesias' left-wing populist Podemos seemed to be quite advanced. Why could not the two left forces converge?
This was a cockfight between two politicians, both pushing to power and representing politically diverse programs, especially in Catalonia. Podemos is in favor of a referendum that Sánchez clearly rejects. Nevertheless, Podemos had shown himself quite generous in the negotiations in the end. Iglesias renounced his own office. But Sánchez's Socialists had from the beginning relied on a minority government. In addition, the PSOE is divided into more conservative and more left-leaning – and Sánchez must represent both sides. That's why it was difficult for him to get together with Podemos. What makes it more difficult for a left-wing majority is that the nationalist regional parties are actually needed for this. And governing with the separatist parties is a problem.
The image of the socialists would suffer greatly. Sánchez has always sided with the conservatives on the issue of Catalonia: there is no negotiation about independence, there must be no referendum. Even when the then conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy launched the article 155 a good two years ago, which restricted Catalonia's autonomy rights, the Socialists clearly sided with the Conservatives.
If there is agreement on the important question of Catalonia, would not a grand coalition be an option?
There was no sign of this in the TV debate of the top candidates. This is also related to the political legacy of the civil war. The polarization in a right and a left camp is still very strong. Maybe there will be a right-wing majority at the end, which in case of doubt will be easier to find than the split left. So far, the right-wing parties still lack the necessary votes. According to the polls, the election will run out of steam. But some miracle has to happen to make a difference in the formation of a government.
That could probably also be said with a view of Catalonia.
Indeed. The conflict is completely deadlocked.
Could a decision for a federal system not solve the problem?
That's a very German perspective on the problem. Such a solution might have been possible in the late 1990s or early 2000s. But in the last twenty years, the conflict has rocketed so much that this option is hardly conceivable. And now he has a legal dimension. The sentences with long prison sentences against the separatist leaders are the most recent example. 13 years imprisonment, that's already an announcement, even though they probably will not have to serve them completely. But it is a symbol that continues to drive polarization.
Is there no room for negotiation?
. (tagsToTranslate) Pedro Sánchez (t) Santiago Abascal (t) Pablo Iglesias (t) Mariano Rajoy (t) PSOE (t) Podemos (t) Ciudadanos