February 05, 2016
Yesterday PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez met officially with his Ciudadanos counterpart Albert Rivera for government negotiations. The two leaders spoke for an hour to set the stage for meetings between the two parties' negotiating teams, which will focus on employment and institutional - anti-corruption - reforms, the two areas that most interest the citizenry. Both leaders emerged from their meeting satisfied of their mutual predisposition to an agreement. Rivera then told the press that he hopes Sánchez will seek the support - or at least the abstention - of the PP. Sánchez would prefer to seek the support of Podemos, but El País writes Ciudadanos will not support Sánchez if Podemos is part of the deal. Rivera hammered his point home by contacting Mariano Rajoy after his meeting with Sánchez, as reported by Público. The two spoke on the phone, ostensibly to discuss the caretaker government's reaction to the latest challenge from the separatist Catalan regional government, and agreed to meet in the following days. Sánchez will meet Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias later today.
After a reportedly not very successful attempt to raise the morale of the PP parliamentary group, Rajoy announced that his government is challenging before the Spanish constitutional court the creation by the new Catalan regional government of a "foreign affairs" portfolio, held by Raül Romeva - one of three deputy regional premiers - alongside institutional relations and transparency. Rajoy also spoke of his government's intention to explore whether the catalan parliament starting work on "disconnection" laws can also be challenged before the constitutional court, as they would be developing the separatist declaration passed in November and struck down by the constitutional court a month later. Sánchez, reports El Periódico, was not amused and criticised Rajoy for taking decisions of constitutional import as caretaker without first consulting other parties (and him specifically as PM candidate). The disconnection laws are three: one on a transitional legal regime intended to provide a measure of legal security to Catalan public servants in the event of a conflict between the state and the Catalan region; a second setting up a Catalan tax agency; and a third one for Catalan social security. The separatist government's plan is to pass the three laws simultaneously as a de-facto declaration of independence at the end of their 18-month road map. This was discussed by Oriol Junqueras, party leader of the republican left and another deputy premier of the regional government, in an interview with Vilaweb (in English). Junqueras could be considered the strong man of the regional government as he's the only party leader on it and on account of his economy portfolio.
Also yesterday the sociological institute CIS released its quarterly public opinion survey which includes questions on voter intent. Though the fieldwork is nearly a month old, the poll puts Podemos in second place ahead of the PSOE. When converted to seats in the parliament, however, the PSOE would still narrowly beat Podemos and allies 84-79 (they are currently at 90-69). The PP remains in first place with similar votes and seats, while Ciudadanos loses a bit on both counts. Sánchez was quick to call the poll outdated, but it is felt that it may strengthen the hand of Iglesias in negotiations. It is not possible to know how the events of the past month will have affected voter intent, but the game for Sánchez will definitely be to try to pin the blame for new elections on Podemos to counter the poll trends.
We also have stories about Italy's worsening conflict with the Commission; on why we no longer report on economic forecasts, on Portugal's uncertain deficit; on the Greek general strike; on Malkoutzsis about Greece and the refugee crisis; and on why policy recommendations are getting more extreme.