The government of the Popular Party (PP) seems anxious to dispel the perception that the economic crisis has blurred the difference between right and left. To show whose side he is on, Mariano Rajoy is doing as Zapatero did: overturning his predecessor's ideological agenda. This is one explanation of the far-ranging legal counter-reformation that the government is proposing. During the election campaign, Rajoy claimed he would concentrate on economic policy, setting aside the matters that he did not consider priorities, but now he is in power these matters have assumed a strangely central role.
Abortion, the morning-after pill, the subject of Civic Education in schools, the Coast Law, the working life of nuclear plants and the system of election to the General Council of the Judiciary are now the object of a revision in which party division, often arbitrary and temporary, weighs more than pragmatic evaluation. With this offensive, the PP aims to please many of its voters. It may achieve this, especially in view of the regional elections in Andalusia, but not without costs to the country's governability.
Rajoy's Cabinet is making a mistake in approaching the regulation of so many disparate matters exclusively from the viewpoint of the division between left and right: the same sort of excess of which Zapatero was accused. A time-limit abortion law is preferable to a medically conditioned one, not because it is more progressive than conservative, but for strictly legal reasons. The present regulation of the morning-after pill has not caused its use to become routine or habitual. With its proposed return to the 1985 abortion law, the PP thinks it has found a way out of the mess it stepped in with its court appeal against the existing law, attempting to satisfy both the anti-abortion sectors and those who favor its decriminalization. It has been following a similar mealy-mouthed strategy with the subject of Civic Education.
The modification of the present Coast Law amounts to making a clean slate of the illegalities committed in contravention of that law: a discreet shelving of cases that ought to have come to court by now. And the prolongation of the working life of nuclear plants, going back on previous decisions, does nothing for the double objective of ensuring nuclear safety and lightening Spain's energy bill, crucial in a time of crisis. True, the Zapatero government made an unnecessary display of its opposition to nuclear energy, but to make a contrary display will only postpone the indispensable decisions the country needs.
This new offensive of an ideological agenda that has prevailed too long in Spain will only deepen the country's political rifts, just when new consensus is most needed. Worse, in certain institutions such as the General Council of the Judiciary, it may finally be detrimental to governability. The PP blocked the designation of new Council members while it was in opposition. Now it is changing the system, in order to validate that policy of obstruction.