A week after the Andalusian coalition government of Socialists and United Left (IU) came to the brink of collapse, and with the wounds still open, it would be convenient for both sides to sit down and assess the damage and draw on any lessons that could be learned from this episode.
The coalition has been saved by Saturday’s agreement, which returned to the IU powers that regional premier Susana Díaz had taken away from the public works commissioner. But the incident underscores the fragility of a government that seems unaware of its great responsibility: to prove that leftist forces can see eye to eye and implement alternative social policies to those of the Popular Party (PP). In a country with little tradition in coalition governments, where the need to reach deals is often viewed as a sign of weakness, it is important for the Andalusian experience to make it through to the end of the term, two years from now.
Early elections would be a very serious mistake, whose consequences would be felt not just in Andalusia
The more time goes by, the clearer it seems that the incident could have been avoided had everyone acted in less of a rush, in a less improvised manner and with greater internal coordination in connection with the eviction of the occupants of the bank-owned La Utopía building, a problem that had been there for two years. In the end it emerged that not all the evicted squatter families were at such a high risk of social exclusion as to justify their jumping the line of more than 600 people on official waiting lists for subsidized housing.
The problem has been limited to finding homes for eight families, but this could have been done with less of a political cost. It is obvious that the stand-off also had to do with other political differences between the coalition partners, but none that anybody was not previously aware of, and which might have been handled in a more serene, constructive manner.
The crisis of the government coalition brought up the possibility of early elections, an option that both sides are now dismissing, even if both declare themselves ready for the challenge as a way to keep their swords up in the air. But early elections would be a very serious mistake whose consequences would be felt not just in Andalusia but in all of Spain.
Now that we are so very close to municipal elections in which it is likely that political deals will be necessary to form local governments, what message would the Socialist Party and IU be sending out if they cut their cooperation short in the middle of the term? Besides offering the PP the excellent argument that the parties of the left are unable to agree with one another and govern, it is likely that voters would not be enthusiastic with those who were unable to save a leftist government.
The Andalusian Socialists might be tempted to call early elections in search of a broader majority (the PP won most of the votes in the last elections, forcing the Socialists to enter into a coalition with IU to retain hold of government). But this would be a very risky enterprise: sometimes, instead of getting stronger one gets weaker; this is what happened to the Catalan nationalists of CiU at the last regional elections, which were also brought forward.
But partisan calculations should not take precedence here. The main thing to keep in mind is that neither Andalusia nor Spain, both of which are struggling to emerge from a devastating crisis, can afford these episodes of political instability.