PSOE, Podemos, C’s: the common ground

While Rivera and Iglesias are far from agreeing on social issues, they have much in common on fighting corruption and electoral reform

MARIONA FERRER I FORNELLS Madrid

The PSOE has laid eight items for discussion in an attempt to form a “pro-reform, progressive government”. They have outlined the main issues for talks with Podemos and Ciudadanos to try to get Pedro Sánchez voted in as the new Spanish president. The eight points were fleshed out at last Saturday’s meeting of the PSOE’s federal committee and have all got one thing in common: they are particularly vague. This ambiguity should allow the negotiating teams some leeway to make progress. In fact, on Thursday Sánchez and Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera agreed to trim them down to only five items and focus first on what brings them together: the fight against corruption and unemployment.

Podemos wants to prevent a hypothetical referendum on Catalan independence from becoming an insurmountable hurdle in a negotiation where nobody wishes to talk about not crossing “red lines”, even if —ultimately— they exist. Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias both acknowledge that any agreement will require concessions on employment and economic matters, the other red lines that will progressively emerge.

Overcoming the crisis
Podemos wants to reverse the current employment law and C’s wants to bring in a single type of work contract

All three parties agree that some taxes should be lowered. The problem is deciding which. On this point, Podemos and Ciudadanos do not see eye to eye, particularly on the matter of inheritance tax. The other significant hurdle is the current employment law, which Podemos would like to see reversed, whereas the PSOE has had a change of heart on this point. Ciudadanos is pushing for a new, single type of work contract, a policy which no other party supports.

Constitutional reform
They all agree that it is necessary, but differ greatly on its extent

There is a consensus on this point, but the territorial debate stands between the three parties. Podemos demands an independence referendum in Catalonia while Ciudadanos wants to take away some devolved powers from the regional governments and to put and end to the Basque Country’s own tax system, whereas the PSOE would like to see a reform inspired by federalism but without regional differences. Iglesias and Rivera are at loggerheads over this issue.

Education
The PSOE and Podemos agree that the current law (Lomce) should be repealed; C’s disagree

The PSOE and Podemos concur that the Lomce should be revoked but C’s merely demand a broad agreement on education and Rivera agrees with Iglesias and Sánchez that religion should stay away from Spanish classrooms and that Catalan lessons should be offered in schools outside Catalonia.

A quality democratic system
Rivera and Iglesias want to put an end to former political leaders getting top corporate jobs

Ending limited legal immunity for elected officials and preventing former political leaders from getting top corporate jobs are two proposals that Ciudadanos and Podemos both endorse. This is a somewhat thornier issue for PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez, whose party mostly opposes the idea. However, he might consider bringing in mandatory primary elections for all political parties, but would never agree to election ballots where voters may tick the candidates of their choice from each slate. Rivera and Iglesias agree that an electoral reform is necessary, but the PSOE refuses to adopt a system of proportional representation where all votes would carry the same weight. This change would benefit the newer parties: Podemos and Ciudadanos.

Fighting poverty
Ending evictions, bringing in a minimum income and benefits for dependent people

The PSOE and Podemos have proposed setting a minimum income or benefit for anyone who does not reach a bare minimum income threshold, an idea which Ciudadanos is keen on. Besides, Rivera demands a Spanish scheme for dependent people, an idea which they could all agree on. All three feel that people should not be evicted from their homes if they have nowhere else to go. The real tour de force will come when the draft bills on this matter are finally debated in parliament, such as Bill 25 on social emergencies, which Podemos has tabled. The PSOE is proposing similar legislation.

Fighting sexism
Ciudadanos are fighting this battle on their own and it became a real drag for them during the election campaign. Albert Rivera has suggested that violence against women should no longer be regarded as being legally more damning than violence against men, an aggravating circumstance that was first brought in by the Zapatero administration. Podemos and the PSOE are in full agreement on the subject of fighting gender-based violence.

Pensions
Disagreement on what needs to go

The PSOE and Ciudadanos propose a new Toledo pact on pensions to ensure proper income for retirees, now and in the future. Their position is ambiguous compared to Rivera’s suggestion to make pensions “flexible”. Podemos and the PSOE agree that the PP’s pension reform must go and
pension increments should again be tied to the cost of living. Iglesias is actually more ambitious and would like to see retirement age brought back down to 65, which the PSOE had raised to 67 when they were in office.

Europe and foreign policy
Big differences on what to do with sovereign debt and the deficit

Again, it is the PSOE and Ciudadanos that mostly agree on this point. Podemos would like to see article 135 of the Spanish Constitution revoked. This was rushed in by the PP and the PSOE in the summer of 2012 and it enshrines austerity policies. Iglesias demands an audit and the restructuring of the nation’s debt, as well as more flexible payment terms. Neither Rivera nor Sánchez would like to change “Spain’s commitments to Europe”. The anti-Jihadi pact is another hurdle: Podemos wants no part in it.