Although from a legal standpoint an election vote in parliament could still be scheduled as late as Monday next week, on Tuesday caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez announced a snap election to be held on November 10. We would be hard-pressed to blame one single individual for the current state of affairs in Spain. However, if there is one man who should be held to account it is —undoubtedly— the leader who was tasked with securing a parliamentary majority that would have prevented the current situation: socialist premier Pedro Sánchez, the winner of the April elections and the candidate who has shirked that responsibility.
In the last five months the PSOE leader has not engaged in any serious talks with any of the other political parties and, whenever he has made an offer —such as to Podemos during July’s re-election bid in parliament— it has been an eleventh-hour proposal clearly meant to be turned down. From the start it was obvious that Sánchez’s goal was to secure a majority for his re-election in exchange for nothing, with a dual strategy: on the one hand, he insisted that the PP and Ciudadanos showed their statesmanship and facilitated his re-election by abstaining and, on the other, he asked Podemos to lend him their support and, in return, he would make policy concessions on a limited number of issues.
One way or another, the goal was the same: to form a one-party PSOE government whilst retaining a free hand to reach ad-hoc parliamentary agreements with the right or the left, as needed. At the same time, though, Pedro Sánchez never gave up on the idea of a snap election. In fact, he has contemplated this very possibility every step of the way. That is why he has woven a narrative that allows him to appear before the general public not as someone who is unable to compromise, but quite the opposite: a victim of the stubbornness and stalemate brought about by the other political parties, Ciudadanos and Podemos in particular.
Sánchez’s actions in this whole process have been exceedingly reckless and the snap elections are a mistake that he is personally responsible for. In a multi-party context, the political parties have a duty to compromise and share power. In fact, nowadays most regional and local governments in Spain are governed by a coalition and there are no signs that the old two-party system (PP + PSOE) is likely to stage a comeback any time soon.
Therefore, Sánchez was lying when he claimed on Tuesday that he had “tried every possible way” to form a government: the socialist candidate never had any intention to share power. On the contrary, he acted as if he had the backing of a majority in parliament.
From Catalonia’s standpoint, these elections come with a silver lining: they give voters a chance to respond to the verdict [in the case against the jailed Catalan leaders] and prove that trying to ignore Catalonia as a political actor is not only a mistake, but an effort that is as recurring as it is futile.