President Mariano Rajoy, with a thoughtful gesture during a control session to the Government, on October 27 in the Senate, in Madrid
A 2018 budget pending approval, a constitutional reform delayed sine die … Beyond the territorial crisis, the Catalan conflict contributes to paralyze the Spanish policy, afflicted by a time here of a deep fragmentation.
The independence challenge, the biggest political crisis in Spain in 40 years, has been added to the divisions in Parliament, where each law is subject to arduous debates between the parties.
So much so that, in the current legislature, opened in November 2016, only nine ordinary laws were approved. In 2015, on the other hand, 48 and the previous year, 36 were approved.
„It will be an exceptionally low-producing legislature,“ predicts José Fernández Albertos, a researcher at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).
The first thing that is blocked at this moment is the 2018 budget. To get it out, the Popular Party of the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and his allies need the indispensable support of the five deputies of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).
However, the PNV has warned that it will not grant its support while Madrid maintains Catalan autonomy intervened, which will not be the case until after the regional elections in Catalonia on December 21.
– The territorial puzzle –
The backdrop of the Catalan crisis is a long-awaited reform of the territorial model. Spain is articulated in 17 autonomous communities endowed with generous competences, but several of them, and not only Catalonia, claim to suffer grievances and ask for a financing more in line with their needs.
The territorial reform passes well by an improvement of the regional financing, as it advocates a commission of experts, or, in the most ambitious case, by a modification of the Constitution of 1978.
The Socialists, led by Pedro Sanchez, took from the PP the promise of a constitutional reform in exchange for supporting the intervention of Catalan autonomy.
But Rajoy, once again, made clear his reluctance last week: „What you can not do is talk about reforming the Constitution without first knowing exactly what is the reform that needs to be done.“
„The problem is that we have a government empty of political initiative“ and „installed in apathy,“ Pedro Sanchez launched in an act of his party, the PSOE.
In the opinion of José Fernández Albertos, „there is not much room for a content agreement on the constitutional reform.“
For this reason, it considers more realistic to promote measures of lesser caliber but no less effective. For example, one of the measures now processed in Parliament, a legislative initiative promoted by unions with more than 700,000 signatures, to establish a minimum income.
– A weak Government in Parliament –
The problem, however, is that beyond the Catalan question the Spanish Parliament is fractured into four major parties -PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos (radical left) -, in addition to the regional formations.
The conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, committed to Brussels to reduce the deficit below 3% in 2018, has also vetoed dozens of opposition initiatives, arguing that they imply greater public spending.
And in addition, it is the most minority government of Spanish democracy, with just 137 of the 350 deputies of the lower house, a scenario very different from the absolute majority that the PP had between 2011 and 2015.
A Government formed in precarious conditions, after a 2016 in which for ten months could not form executive or pass laws because of the persistent blockade between the four main parties.
With the touch of the Catalan crisis, this cocktail has turned the weekly control sessions to the Government into a cockfight.
„Spain what you need now is more social cohesion and more territorial cohesion, Spain needs a project for the future, and you do not offer it,“ the socialist deputy Meritxell Batet recently told finance minister Cristóbal Montoro and the leader of Ciudadanos Albert Rivera, Rajoy’s ally.
Antonio Torres del Moral, professor of Constitutional Law at the National University of Distance Education, adds that the limited parliamentary activity also has something to do with the usual Rajoy temple.
„It is the politicians who understand that time fixes many things, so he prefers not to risk legislative initiatives (…) and is trying to reach consensus and postpone them whenever possible,“ he told AFP.
Therefore, warns that this „may be a short term, because you can not prolong this situation much low tone where there is hardly anything.“