the euro zone

Taking a short cut

It looks like Sánchez's minority administration, also comprised of leftist Podemos, is passing new laws with ease

Mark Nayler

Friday, 24 January 2020, 14:53


Spain's hybrid government has already started splashing the cash, with Socialist premier Pedro Sánchez announcing another hike in the country's minimum wage this week.

This is in addition to a 22% increase in the minimum wage made last year, a new 2% raise in the salaries of the dreaded "funcionarios" - those overlords of pointless paperwork, always ready to deny you documentation for the most inane reasons - and the pensions boost of 0.9% announced last week.

It looks like Sánchez's minority administration, also comprised of leftist Podemos, is passing new laws with ease, despite being 21 seats short of a parliamentary majority.

But none of these decisions have had to go through or will have to go through congress. Instead, they have been or can be passed directly by royal decree after cabinet approval - a handy shortcut for a minority administration.

In other words, the new government's ability to secure cross-party support for new legislation has yet to be tested.

The true test of how well the new Socialist-Podemos arrangement works will be passing a budget - a task which Sánchez, in his first TV interview as Spain's new president this week, promised would be completed "before the end of the summer". And his ability to do that, even to such a relaxed deadline, depends on how he gets on with Catalan premier Quim Torra.

Sánchez looked sharp in his first TV interview since reclaiming the helm of Spain's government, although his two questioners didn't throw many curve balls his way. They did, however, point out a couple of dramatic reversals of policy recently made by the Socialist leader, one regarding his attitude towards Torra and the other concerning his willingness to cooperate with Iglesias.

Towards the end of last year, courting votes from centrist voters hostile to the Catalan independence drive, Sánchez refused to answer Torra's phone calls. He also said that working with Podemos' leader would be unfeasible, as Iglesias is further to the left than the Socialist premier on many issues.

But Sánchez held his own when quizzed about the U-turn, revealing an apparently newfound belief in compromise.

"In politics, reality comes before your wishes," he said.

Up until very recently, it seemed to be precisely the other way around for Spain's politicians.

Sánchez has announced that he'll be visiting Torra in Barcelona next month to discuss possible solutions to the Catalonia problem.

That meeting will be watched very closely by the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which abstained at Sánchez's investiture session on the condition that the Socialist leader open talks with Catalan secessionists.

Now, the ERC's crucial budget votes - or abstentions, at least - depend on Sánchez's largely-untested negotiating skills.

Despite the public spending increases squeezed through by royal decree, the hard work is only just beginning for Spain's new government.

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