Madrid-Brussels Express

 

 

Spain will be holding general elections barely six months after the last ones – a first for our young democracy. Our politicians have failed, for different reasons, to get over themselves and sit together to come up with a workable solution.

This situation is generating mixed feelings. On the one hand, Spaniards have included the lack of government amongst their top ten causes of concern, according to the latest official survey that the State’s Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas carries out on a monthly basis. It is still in a lukewarm eighth position, far behind unemployment, corruption and fraud and economy-related problems, but it has nevertheless gone up from worrying a mere 3.5% of the population to 7.1% in two months.

As economic forecasts for 2016 and 2017 have been recently brought down from the original estimations, mainly due to the global deceleration (the Spanish economy is now expected to grow by 2.7% in 2016 and 2,4% in 2017), the Bank of Spain has warned of the risk that political uncertainty may bring about more stagnation to the recovery of the Spanish economy. Voices from the international arena such as Willie Walsh, IAG CEO, have also recently expressed their concern that the Spanish economy is becoming weaker without a government.

And yet there is another important consequence of the political paralysis which is not being discussed: how Spain’s lack of government can and is affecting the country’s own defence of its interests before its partners in the EU, and ultimately its standing in the Union. In a year where critical files such as the Digital Single Market, the Circular Economy proposals or the new European Commission’s strategy for Industry 4.0 are being discussed, the country is losing its voice due to the lack of political direction. In some areas the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU is said to be pushing forward with clear guidelines of the national position and a political direction, but it is not extensible to all areas (it goes without saying that at the technical level, work in all areas continues). Besides, other equally crucial, non-legislative measures such as the Brexit referendum that will take place on 23rd June – three days before the Spanish elections- demand a clear voice and a strong message.

 

And there is actually only so much an acting government can actually do in terms of steering the political wheel. Although the Spanish Constitution cryptically states that the outgoing Government is in acting until the new one takes office, a later law, Act 50/1997, of the Government, clarified that an acting government must limit its work to the daily management of public affairs and will not adopt any other kind of measure, unless there is a case of urgency. A later Supreme Court ruling was even more adamant about its scope of powers: an acting government cannot take decisions concerning political direction.

 

If the polls are right, as of 26th June the political landscape will be quite similar to what we have witnessed the last six months. Leaving aside the general public’s weariness with the political deadlock, this would mean an acting government still in place. Indefinitely. Time is of the essence and Spain can simply not afford to lose its grip.

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