Spain’s New Socialist Government Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time for the EU

Spain’s New Socialist Government Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time for the EU
Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, at Moncloa Palace, the official residence for the prime minister, Madrid, June 4, 2018 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

Mariano Rajoy’s luck finally ran out. For years, the conservative Spanish prime minister succeeded by waiting out his problems. When it looked like Spain might follow Greece and Portugal in requiring a European bailout in 2012, Rajoy refused to ask for help. He was vindicated when the European Central Bank instead announced its massive bond-buying initiative, what is called “Outright Monetary Transactions.” The bank didn’t actually buy Spanish bonds, but the mere possibility that it might stabilized the markets.

When Rajoy lost his majority in parliament in 2015, he refused a mandate to form a government, letting the Socialists try—and fail—to put together a coalition. In snap elections the following year, Rajoy still fell short but won more seats, giving him leverage to force the Socialists to abstain in a confidence vote in Parliament in 2016.

Rajoy initially took a similar wait-and-see approach to the Catalan independence movement. He allowed an informal referendum on secession to take place in 2014, despite arguing that it was illegal under the Spanish Constitution. Only when he tried to suppress a second referendum last year did it backfire. Rajoy deployed Spanish riot police to Barcelona and other parts of the region to stop people from voting, aggravating middle-class Catalans who would previously have been content with more autonomy. Had Rajoy been willing to negotiate while Catalonia still had a relatively moderate government, he might have prevented a crisis. But now the region is deeply polarized and led by hard-line separatists who don’t trust the central government in Madrid.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review