Once foes, two ex-PMs share concern about state of Spanish politics

Felipe González and José María Aznar agreed that centrality has been lost in recent years

Felipe González (r) and José María Aznar at the forum.
Felipe González (r) and José María Aznar at the forum.JULIÁN ROJAS

Two former prime ministers of Spain who once clashed over many issues – Felipe González of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and José María Aznar of the Popular Party (PP) – on Wednesday found common ground in their shared concern for the current state of Spanish politics.

It seems like the one who strays the furthest from the center gets to dominate the scene

Felipe González, ex-PM of Spain

Speaking as guests at a technology forum in Madrid where the moderator, former minister Eduardo Serra, slipped in questions about politics, both ex-leaders offered their views on the ongoing deadlock in parliament, where the acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez will submit to a confidence vote next week in a bid to form a government, even though he still lacks the necessary support to be successful.

If Sánchez fails and a fresh election is called, it will be the fourth in under four years, underscoring how Spain’s long-lived two-party dominance has evolved into a five-party system following the emergence of new groups on the left and right of the political spectrum: Podemos, Ciudadanos and Vox.

Finding the center again

González, who remains the country’s longest-serving PM (1982-1996) and Aznar, who led conservative governments between 1996 and 2004, both said that the key lies in restoring “centrality” to Spanish politics.

“This loss of centrality is a very serious thing. We have fought a lot in the past, but always within this centrality, and with shared goals for the country” said Aznar, alluding to González and himself. “In Spain, for the last five or six years, no decision has been made on an important matter.”

The political situation could seriously harm the economy

José María Aznar, ex-PM of Spain

“Now we have a five-party system, but there are still two blocks and they seek to antagonize one another: it seems like the one who strays the furthest from the center gets to dominate the scene,” added González.

Two men who once clashed often in public – Aznar is still remembered for his phrase “Váyase, señor González” (or Go away, Mr González) while the Socialists made a famous campaign video comparing their rival to a doberman – now found themselves agreeing on numerous issues.

“Common goals have disappeared and the political situation could seriously harm the economy,” said Aznar. González agreed. “It is absolutely true that a prolonged political instability creates mistrust in investors.”

Without naming any names, the former PSOE leader recommended that today’s political leaders “go to the thinking corner to decide what to do about Spain, and to think more about the general good than the personal one.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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