French 7-J does not move the Spanish chessboard | Spain

French 7-J does not move the Spanish chessboard | Spain
French 7-J does not move the Spanish chessboard | Spain

Spanish politics looked to France on Monday… and then went on with its business, as if nothing had happened. The French 7-J, the legislative elections in which the extreme right had power within reach and was finally relegated to third place After the left and the centre, it was a subject of obligatory comment for the leaders of all the parties in Spain, who were aware of its relevance for the whole of Europe. But nothing more. If the historic day causes changes in the Spanish political scene, they will be slow-burning. For now, its effects do not go beyond the Pyrenees. Not even the PP showed any signs of questioning its pacts with Vox In line with the “republican cordon”, nor on the left was there any maneuver that anticipated a less division of progressive space in imitation of the triumphant New Popular Front.

The PP is starting from a particularly awkward position. The party leadership defends as a solution for France a pact between “liberals, classical socialists” [es decir, solo una parte del Nuevo Frente Popular, nunca La Francia Insumisa] and the classic right”, in the words of its spokesman, Borja Sémper. This is a proposal that clashes with its policy of agreements in Spain, where it systematically allies itself with Vox in communities and town councils and does not rule out doing so to reach the Government. When Alberto Núñez Feijóo defended this Monday the need to avoid “extremes”, he was basically amending the agreements of the PP itself, at the same time as he put in the same bag the party of the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon and that of Marine Le Pen, an ally of Vox, its partner in Spain.

The PP’s problems in approaching the French question without drowning in contradictions are the result of its own decisions. Since, after the Andalusian elections of 2018, the PP saw for the first time the possibility of accessing power through Vox, it has not hesitated even once to do so. Or, rather, once, in Extremadura, when María Guardiola made the briefest display of firmness against the extreme right that can be remembered in Europe. Apart from that failed challenge in Extremadura, the PP has maintained Vox as its strategic ally for more than five years, first as an external partner, then as a government partner, which places Feijóo and his people outside the coordinates of its sister party in France, Les Républicains, but also outside the centrist candidacy of the president, Emmanuel Macron.

That is why when the popular leaders assess the French situation from Spain, using the party’s playbook as centred, stable and moderate, inconsistencies arise, which become more flagrant just now that Santiago Abascal’s party is displaying its most radical profile both outside Spain and within. Outside, allying itself with extremist forces with a history of greater affinity with Russia, those of the Hungarian Viktor Orbán, the French Marine Le Pen and the Italian Matteo Salvini, to the detriment of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, more acceptable to the PP. Inside, marking its toughest profile on immigration, precisely the star issue of the entire European far right, the one it uses as the spearhead of its most exclusive nationalist discourse. A reminder of the type of figure that the PP has promoted with its pacts with Vox was offered this Monday by the president of the Valencian Parliament, Llanos Massó, who referred to the footballers of the French national football team who celebrated the election result on Sunday as “elitist millionaire imbeciles”.

None of this is leading the PP to reconsider its pacts. What’s more, it is Abascal who continues to apply pressure, warning Feijóo that he will break up the five autonomous governments they share if they accept immigrant minors from the Canary Islands. Far from lowering the level of pressure once the electoral cycle is over –Basque, Catalan, European–, the leaders of Vox are increasingly belligerent with the PP. It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary pose or whether Vox has concluded that, in order to get closer to the results of Le Pen or Meloni, it must mark more distance with the PP, even at the cost of creating crises in governments already formed or even losing institutional power.

Spain, United Kingdom, France

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The PSOE, with an easier script, was quick to present the results as a continuation of those obtained in the Spanish general elections of June 23, 2023 and in the British elections last week, all of them united by the common thread of “rejection of the far right”, said this Monday the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, who pointed his accusatory finger at the PP by summarizing what in his opinion is the great French lesson: “With the far right, you neither make agreements nor govern”. That was the general tone in the PSOE and in the Government, who had their work done with Feijóo’s difficulties. “Some of us already stopped that spectre [de la ultraderecha] a year ago, others, however, signed up at the last minute when they were aligned with the far right,” said the Vice President of the Government and socialist leader María Jesús Montero along the same lines.

Although the French 7-J is easier to handle in Ferraz than in Genoa, for the PSOE it also has some sharp edges. Not in vain, France serves as a reminder that a victory of the left is possible with a coalition in which the socialists are not the dominant force, a distant hypothesis in Spain and one that the PSOE does not want to hear about. In reality, no party in Spain is currently proposing a formula similar to the New Popular Front, which would involve uniting the PSOE and the parties to its left in a candidacy. Guillermo Fernández, professor of Political Science at the Carlos III University and author of What to do about the far right in Europe, He believes it is “logical” that “it is difficult” to transfer the French formula to Spain, given the differences in the progressive space of both countries. The New Popular Front, he explains, has only been possible because of the “crisis of the Socialist Party” and because the incentive for coalition in the French electoral system, with 577 constituencies that elect one deputy each, is even greater than in Spain.

More likely, although also difficult, is the possibility of an understanding between the largest possible number of forces to the left of the PSOE, and in particular Sumar and Podemos. If the separate electoral failure of both candidates in the last European elections was already a factor that stimulated this debate, now the success in the joint ballot of the New Popular Front encourages the same idea. But it is an idea that, from what Sumar and Podemos showed this Monday, is green. Without explicitly clashing, both directions spoke coldly about a possible alliance. The option is not expressly ruled out for the future, because no one wants to bear the blame for saying no to “unity”, but rather frozen, postponed. Only from the leadership of IU is emphasis placed on the need to not “exclude” anyone, a position that Antonio Maíllo has defended since his election in May and which he repeated this Monday. But the leadership of IU has also shown itself aware that it must act without haste. As in all national politics, if the French 7-J triggers effects on the alternative left, they will materialize later.

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