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THE EURO ZONe

Government... when?

In Madrid on Monday, acting Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez presented his party's new slogan ahead of the November 10th general election: "Government Now, Spain Now". Given that Spain's been without a fully-functioning administration since the end of April - the second governmental vacuum in four years - it's hard not to regard the promise of a quick solution with scepticism; more accurate, but admittedly less snappy, would be "Government Soonish, Spain Soonish". Nevertheless, the Socialist leader is justified in the three central claims he made on Monday - that his party, the PSOE, can offer stability when it comes to Brexit, the Spanish economy and the Catalonian independence movement.

Even in its limited capacity as a minority government (it holds 123 of the 350 seats in congress), Sánchez's PSOE has already demonstrated considerable pragmatism when it comes to Brexit, especially the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This March, the Socialists passed a Royal Decree which guarantees the rights of the 300,000 Britons living in Spain in the case of a no-deal Brexit, provided that the UK government reciprocates regarding the 100,000 Spaniards who live in Britain. Put in place to offer reassurance to concerned British and Spanish expats, the Decree bolsters Sánchez's claim, made on Monday, that he can offer stability should a no-deal Brexit materialise (to the limited extent that anyone can make that promise).

Spain's economy has performed well under Sánchez, which is almost the same thing as saying that that it's done well with no government at all: hampered by his party's lack of a majority, the PSOE leader has hardly been able to pass any new legislation since coming to power last June, the notable exception being a substantial hike in the minimum wage. Still, during Sánchez's stint as prime minister, the country's budget deficit fell under the EU limit of 3% of GDP for the first time in a decade. The Socialist leader, at the very least, seems like a safe pair of hands when it comes to the economy.

It's ironic to see Sánchez positioning himself as the only politician who can offer stability when it comes to Catalonia - i.e. prevent the north-easterly region breaking away from the rest of Spain.

In the last bout of campaigning, Ciudadanos portrayed the PSOE leader as a liability in this respect, criticising his dialogue-based approach to the Catalan problem. Yet Sánchez is just as opposed to secession as Ciudadanos president Albert Rivera: he merely wants to steer clear of the divisive tactics favoured by his predecessor Mariano Rajoy.

The PSOE leader is justified in the claims he made on Monday, then. There's just one major caveat: Sánchez can only offer Spain a "government, now" if he teams up with another party, something he's so far been unwilling to do.