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THE EURO ZONE

Something in the way

This week saw Luis Garicano, an economic advisor for Ciudadanos, announcing that the centrist party will impose tighter regulations on corporations if it gains a share of power on April 28th. "We have been very concerned that many sectors in Spain have been getting monopolised over time," Garcicano told a somewhat flustered Bloomberg TV interviewer on Wednesday.

He went on to say that major companies in the energy, electricity and telecommunications sectors have too much market power and that regulatory bodies are not sufficiently independent of political influence. Ciudadanos, said Garicano, would address both issues if in office, thus opening up competition and reducing politicians' control of big business.

So-far, so market-friendly (the phrase that's most often used to describe Ciudadanos). Garicano was also asked what the party's first economic change would be if it found itself in government, and answered that the key to bolstering Spain's productivity and competitiveness is improving education. His interviewer seemed unconvinced by the response, but it revealed Ciudadanos to be far more progressive in this respect than its potential right-wing allies - the rapidly regressing Conservatives and the far-right Vox. The only other Spanish parties one could imagine giving a similar answer at the moment are the PSOE and Podemos, although the latter has always highlighted its ideological differences with its rival newcomer.

Led by 39-year-old Catalonian Albert Rivera, Ciudadanos describes itself as liberal, secular and post-nationalist. Currently positioned third in the opinion polls behind the PSOE and the Popular Party (PP), it's likely to be the kingmaker on April 28th, possessing the ideological flexibility to team up with parties to its right or left (in the past it has attempted to make or has made pacts with both the Conservatives and the Socialists). Over the coming weeks, as Spain enters election mode, the party will have plenty of opportunities to indicate which direction it proposes to take at the end of April.

Ciudadanos has already made one thing clear, though: it will not be teaming up with the Socialists (no party is likely to secure a parliamentary majority on April 28th, so the next government will almost certainly be some kind of coalition). Rivera argues that Sánchez has undermined the Spanish Constitution in attempting to open a dialogue with Catalan separatists; for that reason, he has ruled out an alliance with the PSOE.

Such a pairing was also tabled in early 2016, as Spanish parties tried to form a government after December 2015's inconclusive election. But it never materialised, chiefly because Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said he would not support a partnership between the PSOE and Ciudadanos. This time, it's the divisive issue of Catalonia that stands in the way, thus preventing the formation of a dynamic and progressive coalition - perhaps the best available out of all the possible combinations come April 28th.