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Spain’s Socialists unblock the impasse

Once again, the PSOE has shown a better understanding of affairs of state than the PP

Javier Fernández, who leads an interim management team at the PSOE.
Javier Fernández, who leads an interim management team at the PSOE. EL PAÍS

The decision taken at Sunday’s meeting of the Spanish Socialist Party’s (PSOE) federal committee to abstain at the upcoming investiture vote, allowing acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party to form a minority government, opens the way for unblocking the political impasse of the last 10 months, following two inconclusive elections. With just eight days to go before the country would have been obliged to hold a third election in a year, a feat no other modern democracy has managed, the PSOE has acted with a commendable understanding of state.

The PSOE can now focus its attention on exercising an effective opposition

Needless to say, for any Socialist, abstaining to allow Mariano Rajoy back into power, a privilege he does not deserve, is a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, those in the PSOE who have pushed for abstention deserve every respect, while those who have attacked them for supposedly caving in to the PP or betraying the PSOE’s principles should be ashamed of themselves

Furthermore, the decision has been taken with the maximum respect for party members, as well as party rules. Contrary to the rumors being spread in recent days that there has been some kind of palace coup in the PSOE and that it has been taken over by outside interests, the party is being managed by a team led by Javier Fernández in keeping with its statutes and with the support of the federal committee until it can elect a new leader.

In light of the tensions that have pulled the party apart in recent weeks, it is to be hoped that the way in which the decision to abstain has been taken will restore unity. Those who attended the federal committee meeting to defend their perfectly legitimate view but who have been beaten, should respect the legitimacy of the winners and stick to the decision, just as they would have demanded had they won. Any other course of action would not just be to misrepresent the party’s democratic principles but would also deepen division and weaken the party further.

The decision was taken with the maximum respect for party members and rules

The outcome of Sunday’s decision should be a return to unity. The 139 votes in favor of the decision and 96 are the third consecutive defeat for the supporters of the “no means no” position of former leader Pedro Sánchez following the resignation of half of the executive committee and a rejection of a call for an extraordinary party conference, a course of action that would have led to a third general election in a year.

It is clear that all of this could have been avoided if the Socialists had arrived at this decision last December on the basis of their poor electoral showing, or at least in June, when its support among the electorate fell further. Nevertheless, as has been seen over the years – at the NATO membership referendum in the early 1980s, the abdication of King Juan Carlos in 2014, or on anti-terrorist policy – it behooves the Socialists to show a greater understanding of the affairs of state than the Popular Party, despite the latter’s patriotic rhetoric, usually applied when it suits the moment.

With this affair behind it, the PSOE can now focus its attention on exercising an effective opposition against the Popular Party that will enable it to offer a realistic alternative when the time comes.

 English version by Nick Lyne

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