Pedro Sánchez disguises himself a lot, but he is not yet guaranteed to remain president of the Government. And if one does not calibrate the post-election betting game well, there will be new elections. I think he knows. But, perhaps, what he does not know is to control his instincts and those of his troops. Everything is in the air. Fifteen provincial capitals, five or six autonomous communities, and the country’s central government have to be decided in the coming weeks. Along the way, with a little luck, several hundred smaller town halls will also be elected. This is the most flexible political landscape we have had since the 1970s Democratic Transition.
The problem that makes politicians nervous —and many Navarrese— is that there are too many variables, and on top of that, the protagonists insist on confusing them. Then, some media contribute their layer of manipulation to what they have said, or want, or each one does, and we already have the mixture served. Finding the optimal solution is complicated. As any good economist would do, let us review the restrictions, to see if we can guess where things are headed.
A first factor is time. The presidency of the Government, autonomous communities and town halls will not necessarily be decided at the same time. Moreover, if there is no agreement regarding the first, the elections can be repeated, but that will not happen in the case of municipalities —and hardly in the case of the autonomous communities. The game changes depending on what is on the table, and it can get very weird if it takes much longer. Not everyone is afraid of a new call for elections.
In addition, time will tell if the majority needed to form a government is made of 174 deputies —as it is now— or 176 —which will be the case when the separatists suspended for being prosecuted resigned or are acquitted. The first scenario gives Sanchez more options, combining votes from smaller formations, but the window of opportunity is running out.
A second factor is that of the affinities and needs of each party, which we analyse along the entire political spectrum from right to left.
Vox can only agree directly with the People’s Party (PP), and refuses to do so with —or even support— whoever does not sit down to negotiate openly with them, so as not to normalize its current position as the ‘outsider’ of Spanish politics.
The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) wants to be part in the government of Navarra, but does not have much to offer in return: its votes only modify the equation while there are suspended deputies.
The PP can agree with Vox and with Ciudadanos, but in principle only separately, and it desperately needs to maintain the Community of Madrid in order not to certify an electoral debacle.
Ciudadanos is open to agreement with the PSOE and PP, though preferably with the latter, but refuses to speak with nationalists, populists, Vox or Sánchez, and intends to govern even in coalition, with special interest in Navarra.
The PSOE can agree with Ciudadanos, Podemos, and nationalists not openly separatist —but shows few scruples when accepting their votes—, and desires, above all, the national government.
Podemos is likely to agree with PSOE and nationalists of any color, and aspires to be part of the national government so as not to become completely irrelevant.
Bildu wants to govern Pamplona and has the possibility of granting Navarra to the Socialists.
The Catalan Republican Left Party (ERC) has the intention of negotiating a referendum and the release of its prisoners by any means, and may prefer to try it with Sánchez rather than experimenting with new elections.
A third variable is the combination of some of the above. At the national level, Sanchez has the opportunity to be invested with the support of Podemos and ERC, that of Ciudadanos, or by abstaining from one of the two blocs. If both vote against him in the second voting round, the elections will be repeated.
At a regional level, in Navarra, the PSOE can choose between supporting Navarra Suma (Ciudadanos, UPN and PP) or a four-way government with PNV-Geroa, Podemos and IE, with the support of Bildu. In Castilla y León, Aragón and Murcia, Ciudadanos can choose to support governments with PP or PSOE. In Madrid —both in the Community and in the City Council—, this party would have the possibility to choose between PSOE, and PP plus Vox.
This is the most flexible political landscape we have had since the 1970s Democratic Transition.
Focusing on the municipal level, in Barcelona, Ciudadanos can either support PSOE plus Podemos or assume that the city will go to ERC. In Pamplona, the PSOE may allow Navarra Suma to govern or join a four-party coalition, once again supported by Bildu. In the rest of provincial capitals and other cities, there are no serious conditions, and the agreements will be marked by political and personal affinities, since there are no rigid blocs. There has even been an agreement between Vox and Podemos in an Andalusian town.
And let us not forget that there is always the option to step back and allow, with abstentions, the investiture of the most voted party.
What does logic suggest? Without having access to special information or representing anyone, the most plausible photo is as follows:
State Agreements: It is logical that Sánchez wants to have a majority to govern, and not be tied to whom he knows toxic to the country —Podemos and ERC. But also that Ciudadanos does not trust the acting president and does not feel like joining his Government. If we add to this that there are too many serious elements at stake, and that the orange formation is very interested in taking distance from the ‘photo of Columbus’ —a demonstration where the three center-right parties, Ciudadanos, PP and Vox, participated— while keeping his word, there is a solution: an agreement to address the four ‘State Agreements’ with more work pending —education, regional financing, electoral reform, and party financing, Justice— from the positions already defined three years ago, and allowing the investiture of Sanchez through a second-round abstention… with conditions; many in fact, and all of them to be fulfilled before that investiture.
Agreements in Castilla y León, Aragón and Navarra. It would be possible to form a coalition Government of PSOE and Ciudadanos, in equal conditions, in Castilla y León and in Aragon —here adding the PAR—; two communities whose socialist leaders have already proven themselves more centrist than populist. On the other hand, it would not be discardable to allow Navarra Suma to rule the Navarra, under the traditional formula of letting the most voted party govern. The same in Pamplona, its capital city.
Madrid: The autonomous community in exchange for the City Hall. This is more complicated. Ciudadanos would prefer to reach an agreement with the PP, but only with it. However, the PP does not have the keys of either of these two governments without Vox, and Vox wants a seat at the table. Repeating an ‘Andalusian agreement’ is only possible for Cs if it has already been signed in Castilla y León and Aragón, and even then, it would have its perception toll in Madrid. If the PP and Vox are able to reach an understanding that allows Ciudadanos to come with its hands ‘clean’, there will be an agreement. If not, the alternative is to agree with the PSOE, which in Madrid is not very likely, but it would not be toxic. In either case, Ciudadanos could and should opt to head one of these governments and, given the autonomy of Madrid’s Mayor, it seems logical to choose the capital city over the autonomous community.
Barcelona will be ok if the PSC —the Socialist Party’s charter in Catalonia— agrees. Here there is a real possibility of preventing ERC from taking over the city, but it involves working with Ada Colau —populist city Mayor. Manuel Valls was the first to reluctantly assume reality and support her. The PSC will have to act as if it were the PP and build bridges between Ciudadanos/Valls and Colau, so that a candidacy is built that can be voted by all constitutionalists. Colau and Podemos are not characterized by their flexibility, but the purple formation has ruled with PNV and Bildu in Navarra without hesitation (or little hesitation). The PSC is a wayward by design, but if the alternative is that Ciudadanos deliver Madrid to the PP…
Let nature take its course. The rest of the governments do not have the incidence or complexity of those mentioned. The remaining agreements will determine the climate between the parties, and will influence what is agreed upon, but not too much: each city is a world, and Murcia too.
In two weeks regional parliaments will begin to be constituted, and shortly after, town halls. Everything may not be tied by then, because it is difficult to fit all in, and everyone has to make clear their views, their principles, and argue their alliances. But if we forget high-sounding statements and media manipulations, deep down, there are not as many possibilities available. Either we are going to new elections, or the result will resemble the above. By the end of the summer, though.