Socialist Sanchez can clense Spain’s rotten political scene

It was only last year when Pedro Sánchez, the new Spanish PM, won back his role as the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). No one in his party or anywhere in Spain could ever imagine that months later he would be named prime minister. The former right government were swamped by indignation from a Spanish society completely disgruntled by corruption cases in within the Popular Party.

Mariano Rajoy, who served as PM for seven years, struggled all this time to shield himself from the stain of corruption but was unable to endure the political anger after Spain’s highest criminal court found his party had benefited from an enormous and illegal contracts scheme, known as the Gürtel case. Mr Rajoy was forced out with a successful no-confidence motion and Pedro Sánchez now leads the Spanish government with just 84 deputies (176 are needed for a majority) and he is doing so despite being the first prime minister in Spain’s history who is not also a deputy in Congress.

Sánchez resigned from his seat two years ago because he refused to take part in Rajoy’s investiture session. He did not want to follow his party’s decision to abstain from the vote but he did not wish to vote against his party either. It was a draining and bloody feud that divided the Spanish Socialists deeply and saw Sánchez expelled as the leader of the PSOE.

It is obvious Sánchez has an iron will. He is proven to be resilient and perseverant when all the odds stood against him. He is going to need that will if he is to govern until 2020. In his first interview since his inauguration on June 2, Sánchez said that the decision not to call early elections is founded on the need to “normalise” the country’s political life but his opponents claim he is going to try to implement his own policies even though doesn’t have the parliamentary majority.

There is no rule for what should happen after a no-confidence motion but surely his first job should be trying to repair the social and institutional damage done by the corruption of the former PP government so we are ready for a more stable general election in the future. His time won’t be easy. The Catalan crisis is still unsolved. His government is going to have to accommodate the very different demands of the parties that backed his motion and in a party level, he needs to convince the socialist supporters that he is the right candidate for the job. PSOE is showing signs of recovering in the polls but still far away from the Popular Party despite all the corruption, despite everything else.

Internationally it is a good opportunity for Spain to find its place after years of non-existent presence from Mr Rajoy. A firm believer in the European Union, Sánchez has assembled a strongly pro-European cabinet to the delight of Brussels. His economic minister is a former budget general director for the European Commission and his foreign minister is a former head of the European Parliament.

The new government wants to push for deeper integration in Europe and sees France, more than Germany, as it’s best ally to deeply reform the migration policies and tackle the so much needed reform of the euro. Spain is looking forward to strengthening its position in the EU, especially with Brexit around the corner. The final goal is to show the EU that Spain can be a reliable member ready to become the voice of the European south. His orders to welcome in Valencia more than 600 refugees was not only a humanitarian duty but also an opportunity to show the EU his government is the complete opposite of Italy’s new populist leaders. A change of air in the Spanish rotten political scene. Only time will tell for how long the new prime minister will be able to hold onto power for but for now, it is good news to be able to smell something more than corruption in Spain.


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