The recent election of José Antonio Griñán as regional premier of Andalusia initiates a formula for regional government — a coalition between the center-left Socialist Party (PSOE) and the leftist United Left (IU) — never attempted before in that region, and of course quite singular in a Spanish political landscape dominated by the center-right Popular Party (PP).
However, the exaggeratedly “left front” readings made of the Andalusian coalition seem precipitate. Convinced that the new regional government will be an “argument against the economy of fear,” Griñán is offering cooperation with the national government (of the PP), but not without complaining about the Rajoy administration’s attitude in certain cases, such as its attempts to block the Andalusian auction of pharmaceutical-supply contracts and the issue of civil service entry examinations for teachers.
The starting point is a very negative one. Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region, has 1.3 million people unemployed — some 33 percent of the active population. And the coalition government will have less money at its disposal, given that it has to cut back 2.7 billion euros of its 32-billion-euro budget, according to the framework established for reducing regional government deficits. An objective that is hardly compatible with that of maintaining investment, which underwent a drop of 10 percent in this year’s accounts.
The challenge is a serious one, and the new government has to explain how it is going to handle matters, especially with a PP opposition that is not going to make things easier, the Andalusian PP leader Javier Arenas having termed the coalition agreement “anti-European.”
The experiment of the left-wing pact in Andalusia also begins with a certain internal fragility. The so-called ERE scandal (involving corruption in the administration of public funds for early retirement plans in a number of companies) will still be a handicap to the Socialists, whose job it will be to carry out a thorough clean-up of the corruption that infests the regional government’s employment department. And though the inter-party pact functioned well for the election of the regional premier, one of the 12 IU deputies, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, cast a null vote for the investiture of Griñan.
This coalition is an opportunity for showing the degree of responsibility the left can exercise in the management of a critical situation. The two parties know that a great deal is at stake, and that they must make decisions contrary to the expectations of their voters.
For this reason IU must not just content itself with the argument that it is acting by “legal imperative,” when it toes the line set by the PSOE in the controverted area of budget cutbacks. Nor must it sow doubts about compliance with laws it does not like, such as the labor-market reform. From the beginning, it is under an obligation to take the loyal, uniform line that is to be expected of a governing party.