Spanish right-wing bosses squabble ahead of election
On Sunday, April 28, Spain will hold its third general election in four years.
Ahead of the election, the television debate brought clashes between the leader of the Popular Party (PP) Pablo Casado and Albert Rivera, the Ciudadanos (Citizens) boss, who are both on the right of the political spectrum.
It meant Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (pictured) was largely spared the onslaught that he had been expecting.
The rise in recent years of the anti-austerity Podemos (We Can) and the centre-right Citizens party ended decades of PP-Socialist hegemony. The divisions have been further complicated by the arrival of the extremist Vox party.
Sánchez’s minority government has only 84 of the 350 seats in the Spanish congress of deputies following the last general election in 2016.
Less than a year ago, Sánchez was lagging in the polls as the leader of Spain’s opposition, after two heavy electoral defeats.
But he goes into Sunday’s election widely tipped to secure the first victory for the Socialists since 2008.
“He has used his time in government to project an image of gravity and of being someone who is suited to the post of prime minister,” said Josep Lobera of Madrid’s Autonomous University (UAM). Being in government has boosted Sánchez’s standing among left-wing voters, he added.
“Regardless of whether or not he’s actually managed the country effectively, he’s projected that image.”
Sánchez goes to the electorate after introducing an impressive range of environmental reforms.
Critics accuse Sánchez of being too soft on Catalan independence and beholden to minor parties, including Catalan separatists, that helped him form a government.
A recent poll by Spain’s Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) said Spaniards identified the biggest national problems as unemployment (61.8 per cent), corruption and fraud (33.3 per cent) and Spain’s politics, politicians and parties (29.1 per cent).
During the television debate, Sánchez faced criticism, including from Pablo Iglesias of the leftist Podemos party, particularly over the issue of Catalan independence.
But Casado and Rivera focused on each other, leaving Sánchez to look on perplexed.
The issue of gender violence drew a heated exchange. Casado reacted angrily to comments from Sánchez: “A pretend president like Sánchez is not going to give me lessons on gender violence. I will not tolerate your finger-pointing. I have a mother, a wife, a daughter. It is an insult to say that the PP does not fight gender violence. You are using women.”
In a rare moment of agreement, Rivera supported his right-wing rival: “This is a scourge that affects everyone, Mr Sánchez. Don’t be petty, don’t use women. This is everyone’s cause. This country does not deserve such a PM.”
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has introduced numerous innovative reforms during his short period in office. Picture credit: Wikimedia