The Nation - January 7, 2020
"**Others, however, see the coalition government as a way station en route to shifting the terms of the debate to the left on issues ranging from the economy and national identity to education, gender relations, and climate change. “It’s clear that the agreement between Unidas Podemos and the Socialist party is far from pursuing [left-wing objectives],” wrote Roy Cobby in the newspaper El Salto**. Invoking the Trotskyist concept of the “transitional program,” he argued that those on the left cannot wallow in disappointment: “None of these policies is revolutionary, but they will be labeled ‘radical’ all the same. Why not take advantage [of the situation] to undermine the power and influence” of organizations that will come out against these social-democratic reforms?"**
*Madrid—*It felt like déjà vu. On December 30, when most of Spain was in the midst of a two-week holiday break, Socialist interim Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias found themselves again together in front of reporters in a room at the Palacio de las Cortes. It was the site where on November 12, two days after the general elections, they’d made the surprise announcement of a joint attempt to form a government. Following six weeks of negotiations, not only between the two parties but also with the Catalan Left Republicans (ERC) and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), the Socialists and Podemos presented a 50-page document outlining 11 points of emphasis for how the new “progressive coalition” would govern Spain.
Sánchez and Iglesias’s parties only hold 155 seats in parliament, 21 short of an absolute majority. Yet on Tuesday, after two days of rowdy debate, they were backed by a razor-thin simple majority: 167 deputies voted in favor and 165 against, with 18 abstentions. The nail-biter of a vote, which was painstakingly negotiated and almost derailed at the last minute, clears the way for the first progressive coalition government Spain has seen since the 1930s.
The new executive, with Sánchez as prime minister and Iglesias as second-in-command, will take office next week. Apart from Iglesias, the cabinet will feature four other Podemos representatives: the party’s number-two, Irene Montero; United Left (IU) leader Alberto Garzón; Galician representative Yolanda Díaz; and renowned sociologist Manuel Castells. Their program features a litany of policies aimed at dramatically curbing, if not outright revoking, those of the previous two-term administration of former conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy, who governed Spain from 2011 to 2018, was ousted by Sánchez in a vote of no-confidence two summers ago, following a major corruption scandal. (Sánchez’s inability to pass a budget early last year and to strike a coalition deal led to twogeneral elections in 2019.)
During his time in power Rajoy managed to upend Spanish society, whose economy was hit hard by the Great Recession. In 2012, Rajoy enacted a labor reform law that has since led to skyrocketing inequality and, at 27 percent of the work force, the highest national proportion of people employed in temporary jobs in Europe. That same year, Rajoy approved significant cuts to health care and education, which he coupled with co-pays and measures to open up the Spanish public health care system to privatization. The following year he proposed a controversial “gag law” (which passed in 2015) that brandished the notion of “citizen safety” to limit the legal right to protest and impose hefty fines on journalists covering police malfeasance—a law that, as a New York Times editorial noted, “disturbingly harkens back to the dark days of the Franco regime.”
Rajoy also allowed the conflict over Catalonia’s status within Spain to fester. Rather than look for a political solution to Spain’s territorial crisis, he burdened the court system with the responsibility to settle disputes involving regional sovereignty. The result: an escalation of pro-independence sentiment in Catalonia and a series of controversial convictions that are now being challenged in the European judiciary, but for much of the year were a siren call for the Spanish-nationalist radical right. Rajoy did all this while enjoying a $125 billion bailout from Europe, in 2012, and extraordinary leniency regarding budget deficits during his entire tenure in office—a leniency that other bailed-out countries, such as Greece, would never receive.
The Sánchez-Iglesias program targets the Rajoy legacy head-on. In addition to revoking the labor reform law, the new coalition government plans to strengthen job security, the role of national labor unions, and oversight regarding mass layoffs. In order to reverse health care privatization, the government plans to improve the public health system by increasing its funding to 7 percent of Spain’s GDP by 2023 and establishing an oversight commission that includes experts, doctors, nurses, labor leaders, patients, and advocacy groups. Other policies include revoking the gag law, guaranteeing “the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” raising the minimum wage, introducing free, providing universal public child care from birth, increasing pensions to above the rate of inflation, revoking Rajoy’s church-friendly education law, passing a wide-ranging climate-change law, and raising taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $145,000 per year (this measure affects about half of 1 percent of Spanish taxpayers, 96 percent of whom earn less than $66,000 per year).
The coalition has also committed to addressing some of the most painful legacies of the Franco dictatorship, which ended in 1975. Sánchez and Iglesias plan to exhume hundreds of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), nullify all Franco-era political convictions, and audit and return goods and properties appropriated by the Franco regime after the war. Still, the incoming government has no plans to revoke the 1977 Amnesty Law, which has prevented the prosecution of human rights abuses committed during the dictatorship. ...
Read full report at The Nation