Left-wing party Unidas Podemos (The Left) continued to fight fiercely within the progressive Sumar platform on Sunday evening to secure at least the key Ministry of Equality in Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s new coalition government, due to be announced on Monday.
Although the names of those chosen for the new progressive executive were not yet known as of Sunday afternoon, several Spanish media outlets reported that significant changes are possible.
According to El País, Sánchez (PSOE/S&D) will keep the “hard core” of his previous government, although he would need now to include ministers from Sumar, the platform led by Yolanda Díaz, the likely future vice-president.
Sánchez will announce the composition of his new cabinet on a highly symbolic day in Spanish history amidst a very tense political climate between the left, right and far-right camps. On 20 November 1975, former dictator Francisco Franco, whose memory is still cherished by some far-right minority groups, died in Madrid.
However, Díaz aspires for his party to have “five important portfolios”, Sumar sources told EFE on Sunday, with media speculating that current Sumar spokesman and MEP Ernest Urtasun could be the future culture minister, while the regional deputy of the Más Madrid party, Mónica García, would be appointed as health minister, among others.
This “hardcore” includes Finance Minister and PSOE Deputy General Secretary María Jesús Montero, Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera, and Economy Minister Nadia Calviño, who, for her part, could become head of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in December if enough EU countries back her candidacy.
Sánchez was sworn in as the new prime minister on Friday after parliament voted him into office by a large majority thanks to the backing of Catalan and Basque separatist parties that did so in exchange for generous concessions, including an amnesty law for those involved in the 2017 secessionist attempt in Catalonia and more economic and political competences for the Basque Country.
Podemos was the PSOE’s minority partner in Sánchez’s previous governments (I and II) and is now seeking a position of responsibility in the “Sánchez III” executive.
The left-wing party currently has five seats in parliament, although since last June, it has been part of the left-wing platform Sumar, which includes 14 progressive parties and has 31 seats, two fewer than the far-right party Vox, which has 33 seats and is the third largest in parliament.
The rivalry between Podemos and Sumar has intensified since the snap general election on 23 July, in which the main opposition party, the Partido Popular (PP/EPP), won but fell short of a majority to govern.
Open wounds in Podemos and Sumar
The “hard core” of Podemos, made up of Equality Minister Irene Montero, who is responsible for the controversial “only yes means yes” law, and the party’s secretary general, Ione Belarra, are in a bitter dispute with Díaz, whom they accuse of wanting to remove Montero from the centre of power so that she does not “disturb” the good harmony between Díaz and Sánchez.
According to numerous analysts, Sánchez and the PSOE are blaming Montero behind the scenes for the crisis that the previous government went through due to the “only yes means yes law”, which the government was forced to urgently modify, with the support of the PP, because it had the opposite effect to that expected.
At the weekend, tension between Podemos and Sumar remained high.
Nacho Álvarez, who was Podemos’ economic affairs spokesman and a key figure in the negotiations between his party and the PSOE, announced on Friday that he was stepping down from the party and resigning as a minister in the future government.
“It is clear that the current Podemos leadership has lost the trust it placed in me when it appointed me to the party’s executive. I therefore consider that the most honest thing to do is to step aside and resign from my posts in the party, leaving both the Secretariat of Economy and the State Citizens’ Council and the Executive,” explained Álvarez in a statement published on X.
Belarra rejected Díaz’s proposal for a member of her party (Nacho Álvarez) to become a minister in exchange for Podemos to stop attacking the leader of Sumar (for having excluded Irene Montero) and for both parties to support each other in the run-up to the European elections in June 2023.
But the leader of Podemos was categorical: “Podemos ministers are chosen by Podemos”, Belarra said on X.
Quid pro quo or political blackmail?
It is surprising that Díaz – whom Pablo Iglesias, founder of Podemos and former minister with Sánchez, considered his political successor only a few years ago – has undertaken a process of “purging” in Sumar – sacrificing Montero – in exchange for having important ministries in the new government, as a political analyst told on Sunday the Spanish public television RTVE.
But if the “price to pay” for Podemos is that Montero is not the next equality minister, Belarra does not seem willing to accept this exchange or blackmail in disguise, according to some media.
Podemos is fighting for a government that “transforms” Spanish society, and not an executive in which “only Sánchez is in charge”, Belarra explained on Saturday, EFE reported.
Similarly, she defended Montero’s return as equality minister because “feminist transformations are the best contribution we can make to the next government”.
(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.Euractiv.es)
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