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Do-nothing policy

Rajoy lets problems fester because he thinks it desirable to let them harden into exasperation

Last week the headlines were full of three events. Catalan protocol, the retroactivity of the so-called Parot doctrine, and the economic data for the third quarter: a technical end to the recession. The government's response to the latter statistic was only to be expected: gloating triumphalism, as if the future was plain-sailing. But as for the other two events, there is flagrant contradiction.

Regarding the Catalan question, the government clings to legalism, refusing any referendum on Catalan independence because the text of the Constitution forbids it. In the same way, it vetoed Artur Mas's speech on grounds of hollow formalities of protocol. While in the face of the Parot doctrine ruling it allows members of its own party to attend a protest demanding the government disobey it. An ambiguous contempt for the rule of law, worthy of Mas himself.

Meanwhile, in all three cases we perceive what seems to be the hallmark of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's strategy: his famous static strategy of "do-nothing policy," or, as some call it, "Marianism." In economics he is not going to stimulate activity, consumption or credit, since he believes he has already done enough with cutbacks in employment and real wages. In anti-terrorism he is not going to incentivize the dissolution of ETA with favorable prison measures, for fear of the populism of the far right that manipulates the victims. Nor, regarding the Catalan question, is he going to intervene by attempting to detour Mas's march to the brink. Indeed, why does he say and do nothing?

Many psychological interpretations have been advanced to explain Rajoy's policy — indecision, indolence, apathy, cowardice, fear of the father

In the face of a swindling adventure such as that undertaken by Mas last year, when he attempted to profit electorally from the success of the Diada Catalan nationalist day march by shouldering the secessionist claim, the most intelligent thing Rajoy could do would be to come out in favor of a referendum on self-determination, as David Cameron did over the Scottish question. He might thus deactivate the anti-system attraction of the thing, and negotiate its terms. On the contrary, Rajoy stood firm, vetoing the referendum on a pretext of legalistic technicality. Why did he do this? Because this was the only way he could reactivate the long list of Catalan grievances, multiplying the accumulated resentment, creating a Catalan majority for self-determination. And in the face of the unstoppable drift toward the secessionist mirage, he has not sought any way to ride or domesticate it. Instead of that, he sticks to his veto when it is already too late to rectify. Why?

Many psychological interpretations have been advanced to explain Rajoy's policy  indecision, indolence, apathy, cowardice, fear of the father. With this latter appears the specter of Aznar and the hard wing of the party, crouching under his long shadow, publicized in the right-wing press that serves as a sounding box for Spanish nationalist populism. But Rajoy does not seem to be so easily influenced: in other cases he has demonstrated his independence of other powers that be. Errors of calculation have also been alleged — such as that he trusted that economic recovery would deflate the secessionist soufflé — which are clearly unrealistic. The only explanation left is a deliberate strategic decision.

In short, Rajoy lets problems fester because he thinks it desirable to let them harden into exasperation. What does he expect to win from it? The elections, obviously. If money is the only sacred interest for homo economicus, the desire for votes is the only addiction of the zoón politikón. Magnifying the false problem of the victims and the fictitious Catalan problem, Rajoy has four aims: hide the corruption scandals, annul the opposition's agenda, make his potentially volatile electorate loyal and, above all, intimidate citizens with the message of fear over the breakup of Spain. A scared public behaves submissively, demanding an authoritarian government. "Long live our chains," was the war-cry of the reactionary clerical party in another age.

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