President Pedro Sanchez.

President Pedro Sanchez.

18-05-2020Borja Puig

I n the minutes for the most recent council meeting in Alcudia, there was a note which read: “On behalf of Vox, Joan Sendín stressed that we must all work together and publicly thanked councillor Martí Garcias and all the volunteers for their work.” Martí Garcias is the PSOE second deputy mayor for general services, maintenance and municipal public works. Vox are one of the opposition parties.

It is often said that local politics owe only so much, if anything, to national or regional politics. Town halls have municipal matters to attend to. The politics enter into the working of town halls, of course they do, but ideologies are frequently cast aside in pursuit of what is best for the municipality and its citizens. Vox have, in certain instances, clearly allowed their ideology to intrude into town hall affairs. It has been most marked in Palma, where Vox and Podemos have made a habit of going head to head. But then Palma is like its own government, not so distinguishable from the regional government and the Council of Majorca either in political make-up or in the propensity to clash on ideological grounds. The greater the scale of government, the more ideology intrudes.

Joan Sendín extending his thanks to a PSOE councillor in Alcudia is a million miles away from the Balearic parliament or from Congress. And it’s heartening that this type of harmony can exist among the current mayhem, with the political tensions being cranked up and social tension tagging along as well. The protests in Madrid against “dictatorial” government don’t really owe much to political ideologies. People are just getting fed up, but their discontent certainly allows political groups to seek advantages - the Partido Popular as well as Vox.

The Sánchez government is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t, although one suspects that there is a majority who don’t damn it either way. Whatever mistakes were made, and there were mistakes, such as allowing the International Women’s Day rallies to go ahead a week before the state of alarm was declared, the situation is as it is. And the situation, in the government’s view, demands a further extension of the state of alarm, this time for “around a month”. This extension may be shorter in certain parts of the country. Pedro Sánchez has intimated that it will be “asymmetric”, but this perhaps only serves to fuel unrest in those parts of the country which can expect to go the full distance and - who knows - maybe further. One of those parts is on the doorstep of Congress - the Spanish capital.

Sánchez will need to work in order to get this extension, the final extension he has assured us, through Congress. The maths are such that PSOE and Podemos muster 155 seats out of the 350. Generally speaking, they have a further thirteen seats from various small parties to back them up - still short of a majority therefore. The negotiations have to therefore ensure the backing of at least Ciudadanos, while a hope might be that the ERC Esquerra Republicana Catalunya will go back to abstaining rather than voting against. The government may well get sufficient support, but it will be at a price, especially if it means horse-trading with two parties - the Cs and the ERC - who are polar opposites when it comes to the Catalan question. And it isn’t guaranteed, as the Cs are now saying they won’t accept a month’s extension.If the extension is for a further month, it would make sense in that it would coincide with the completion of the three phases of de-escalation - for those parts of the country which achieve this in the minimum time, that is. A month’s extension would be until 21 June, which is when Phase 3 is due to end.

The prime minister was rather vague when speaking on Saturday, and he can’t be when it comes to presenting the proposal for an extension to Congress. He has to give a date. “Around a month” won’t do. Although one month is what is being assumed, he could ask for longer, a reason being that the government may well feel the necessity to maintain the state of alarm in parts of the country which are still at particular risk, which takes one back to the protests in Madrid. If the extension were for five weeks, there would be nothing to stop the government lifting the state of alarm earlier, either for the whole country or for specific regions. As he said, it will be “asymmetric”. Five or even six weeks would be a way of hedging his bets.

But wanting more than a month might make the negotiations with political parties that much tougher, while Vox and the PP will play it for all their worth. A constitutional dictatorship is how Pablo Casado of the PP described the government during the last debate for an extension. The language is certainly not going to be moderated.

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