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Pedro Sánchez, this Thursday, at the rally in Sant Boi de Llobregat (Barcelona). Reuters
The show goes on
The Euro Zone

The show goes on

The latest stunt only makes sense if you think about it in terms of image, which is often Pedro Sánchez's main concern, writes columnst Mark Nayler

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 3 May 2024, 11:17

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As I watched the latest instalment of the Sánchez Show unfold last week, I was reminded of how similar it was, in two key respects, to an episode back in January. After making an inconsequential semantic tweak to the Constitution, Sánchez gravely apologised to the nation for taking so long to have done so. What was more strange: the fact that he appeared to genuinely believe that an apology was necessary here, or that he has never apologised for any of the actual mistakes his government has made?

It was the same last week. Sánchez wanted to appear as if he were considering resigning - but over what is arguably the most trivial matter to have arisen during his premiership: an insubstantial lawsuit against his wife that even the plaintiff, a small anti-corruption organisation led by a far-right lawyer, admits might be unfounded. But over much more serious affairs - the Constitutional Court's lockdown ruling, allegations of digital espionage, the electorate's objection to the amnesty deal, the ongoing Koldo scandal - the Socialist leader has refused to even admit there was a problem, let alone tease the country with the prospect of a Sánchez-free government.

The latest stunt only makes sense if you think about it in terms of image, which is often Sánchez's main concern. If he had decided to go, he wouldn't have had to offer an apology, because this set of corruption allegations doesn't directly concern his government. For a politician who doesn't do apologies, it was an opportunity for a guilt-free get-out - especially as his minority coalition is barely able to govern anyway.

Last week's developments also highlighted, in similar ways, the weakness of Spain's centre-right opposition. Both the Popular Party and Vox love to call Sánchez a national liability, a threat to democracy, a totalitarian lefty etc - but these are just words. They have failed to seize on any of the matters mentioned above as the basis for a no-confidence vote against the prime minister. Of course if the allegations against Sánchez's wife turn out to be well-founded, the opposition would be justified in holding him to account; but that still wouldn't excuse it for having failed to do so over matters that directly affect his leadership.

In deciding to stay, Sánchez has also put an end to a brief but intense period of speculation in Brussels. After European elections in June, the EU will reassign some of its top jobs, including president of the European Council - a post which some insiders thought that Sánchez had his eye on as he considered leaving Spanish politics. Would Brussels' gain have been Spain's loss, or is it now the other way around? Or has no-one won anything out of last week's bizarre sequence of events but Sánchez himself?

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