The sentence handed down last week by Spain’s High Court in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts corruption case has demonstrated the independence of the Spanish justice system and the fact that there is no impunity for the country’s politicians. On Friday, making legitimate use of the mechanisms available under the Constitution, parliament forced the Popular Party (PP) prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to assume the political responsibilities that he had so far evaded via a no-confidence motion, which was headed up by Pedro Sánchez and that garnered enough support from his own Socialist Party (PSOE) and other groups in Congress to prosper.
By doing so, the correct functioning of the rule of law and the division of powers has left executive power – and with it the responsibility of forming a government – in the hands of Sánchez.
For many citizens, the immediate feeling after Friday’s events is one of relief, of highly charged emotions, and of moral imperative in the face of a series of corruption cases that have rocked their faith in Spain’s institutions. Now, however, it is the time for governance, something that obliges Sánchez to form a solvent executive that responds more to the whole of the country that he must lead rather than just the party he represents, which currently counts on just 84 seats out of a total of 350 in parliament.
When designing his government, the new prime minister cannot hope to satisfy the heterogeneous coalition of 180 deputies, of all political stripes, who have lent him their support. As many of the representatives of these parties stated when they took the stand during the no-confidence debate, they voted with Sánchez given their desire to see Rajoy ousted, not because they wanted to explicitly support the program presented by the PSOE nor necessarily form part of a future government.
That allows the new government to force itself to reach out to a wide range of Spaniards who are expecting a guarantee of stability from the new executive, as well as prosperity after the many sacrifices they have made after the deep economic crisis Spain suffered.
The future government is facing major challenges, from the continuation of the battle to generate more wealth and employment in an environment of huge precariousness, to the territorial challenges and independence drive that continues to thrive in Catalonia in spite of the suspension of autonomous powers in the region under Article 155 of the Constitution. As such, it is just as, if not more, important that the make-up and orientation of the new government is guided by criteria aimed at the defense of constitutional order as well as economic stability.
The government that Sánchez appoints is going to be provisional, not just in terms of time, given that he lacks a solid majority, but also because the elections that loom on the horizon will be present in all of his decisions. But this is no obstacle for it to be made up of figures with recognized value and prestige. On the contrary, given that what Spain needs at the moment is for any doubts about instability to be allayed, it should be formed by those with the reputation needed to send an essential message of political, economic and constitutional stability both inside and outside of Spain.
In order to oust Rajoy and take his place at the head of the government, Sánchez has had to unite very disparate forces that together lack coherence. And by refusing to seek legitimacy via early elections, he is forced to do so by the intelligent exercising of prudent and capable governance, at the helm of a solid government with accredited prestige.
English version by Simon Hunter.