Crossing the Straits

Last April, Spain’s socialist party, the PSOE, emerged as the clear winners in the general elections, with an increased vote and a 57-seat lead over their historic rivals, the conservative Partido Popular. The PSOE did not win an outright majority, however, leaving party leader and acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez with the task of building a coalition. This is no simple task in Spain’s increasingly complex electoral landscape and nearly four months on, attempts to form a government are still foundering: in “Crónica de un desastre en directo“, El País journalist Carlos Cué charts the failure of last-minute attempts to rescue negotiations between the PSOE and left-wing party Unidas Podemos, the obvious candidates for an alliance, before a key vote on 25 July.

On 7 August, Pedro Sánchez had to give an update report to King Felipe, who has been urging politicians to find a way of breaking the stalemate. Lucía Bohorquez of El País reported on the mixed messages that emerged from this meeting (“Sánchez insiste en el pacto de legislatura pese a la “desconfianza” con Iglesias“); on the one hand, Sánchez argued that some form of agreement with Unidas Podemos was still possible, but at the same time he laid the blame for the failure of negotiations firmly at their feet, drawing an angry response from UP spokesman Pedro Echenique. Bohorquez concludes that a further election in the autumn is looking increasingly likely.

An opinion piece by Marisa Cruz in El Mundo ends up in pretty much the same place, arguing that Sánchez has deliberately sabotaged the deal which he is, on the surface, still seeking; in “Pedro Sánchez crea un “relato” perfecto para torpedear el pacto con Pablo Iglesias“, she points out that you don’t make friends of people by trading insults with them, and argues that Sánchez’ real strategy is focused on the coming, inevitable, election. She is particularly scathing about his call for parties on the centre-right spectrum in Spain to refrain from blocking the formation of a new government by abstaining in the relevant parliamentary votes; why, she asks, should the Partido Popular cooperate in the creation of a government which is pledged to sweep away key elements of the changes that the PP introduced under Mariano Rajoy, even if new leader Pablo Casado is trying to distance himself from some of Rajoy’s legacy.

Lucía Bohorquez points to the impact that the ongoing uncertainty is having, not least on the future funding position of Spain’s regional governments. It’s a relief, in the middle of the recriminations, to find out about something which does seem to be working: Operación Paso del Estrecho, a scheme set up to help immigrants and their families travelling from all over Europe to visit relatives in North Africa for the summer. This year the scheme is expected to perform the logistical miracle of smoothly transporting more than three million people to and from Tangiers, Ceuta, and other ports in Morocco and Algeria. In “De inmigrante ilegal a turista europea, la ida y vuelta de Sumnia al Estrecho“, Jesús Cañas catches up with Sumnia Meduen, her husband Said and twelve-year old daughter Mariam, on their way from Madrid to visit family in Casablanca on the busiest day of the scheme. Emergency helpers are on hand for those that need them but Mariam is more interested in the ice-cream van.