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Politics in Spain and the So-Called ‘Portuguese Way’

Ángel Luis Jiménez

We are already in September, and the possibility of a government coalition pact in Spain receeds into the distance with each day that passes. La Moncloa (the headquarters of the Spanish government) is already setting the deadline for an agreement on a new government for the morning of the 16th, and they foresee that the King will hold a new round of consultations between the 16th and 17th. So, not much longer to go now…

During the Thursday September 5th meeting, the socialist delegation warned the representatives of Unidas Podemos that they only had one week to start a dialogue and that not making substantial progress towards a third way between the elections and a coalition government could ruin the meeting between Sánchez and Iglesias.

The meeting between the two party leaders is not certain, nor would it make much sense if the meeting between the delegations of both parties continues in a dialogue of the deaf, such as that held for four and a half hours on Thursday 5 and Tuesday 10, resulting in no progress whatsoever. So, we are heading towards new elections, unless common sense prevails and a minority government with a progressive common agenda is chosen. The so-called ‘Portuguese Way’.

The Portuguese way is a system whereby members of parliament collaborate without actually being members of the government.

In Lisbon, there is a socialist minority government supported by other progressive parties with a common economic program, and this has generated social improvements in the public services and had a very positive impact without increasing the deficit.

Lisbon

Because the Spanish socialists have not ruled out that Iglesias may take a stand before the King by offering Sanchez support, thus leading to Sanchez being appointed as president without having minimum guarantees for stability, and thus being obliged to dissolve the Cortes (the Spanish Parliament) for the second time in less than a year, and that is obviously not the best scenario for the country.

This gratuitous support, without a coalition government, could put in place a ‘Portuguese way’, but without the stability that the Portuguese government has in being able to rely on a progressive block comprising the Portuguese Communist Party, the Greens and the Bloco de Esquerda which has allowed for the revaluation of pensions, an increase in the minimum wage, the reversal of privatization and the return of the 35 hour week in the public sector, among other measures.

The viability of this fragile system – a Portuguese socialist, minority government headed by Costa, with agreements with each of the three minority left-wing parties and no express parliamentary guarantee was not at first obvious. However, it has weathered a full four years of legislature. The key has been the ability of the parties to maintain their differences, but with an understanding on fundamental issues.

There is no doubt that this political system has become the great success story of the European left in recent years.

The economic data is good – growth close to 2%, 6% unemployment and a deficit of 0,6% GDP – combine with a strong social programme. Is it possible to replicate the Portuguese model in Spain? I’m not sure it is, but we should try it. Although the Spanish jigsaw puzzle certainly has more pieces than the Portuguese one.

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