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2/25/16

Spain Discovers Parliamentarianism - by Diego Baes

Mariano Rajoy - obstructionist policies ?
It took Spain’s political parties a staggering 44 days to properly react and face head-on the outcome of the general election on 20 December. In a country hardly accustomed to tight election results and coalition talks, the aftermath of the vote left the political class not only in dismay but, more worryingly, in stasis.

Two months after a general election that has so far failed to produce a government, the running joke among the country’s chattering classes has become that Spain is now Italy. But without Italians. Or, more precisely, without the Italian nerve of steel for brinkmanship and their long history managing it.

The other joke — this one much more serious and revealing of the political culture — is that for almost 40 years Spain functioned as a presidential system disguised in parliamentarian robes. A de facto two-party system was able to amass enough votes on either side of the political divide to produce strong and stable governments that could turn the parliamentary chamber into a mere extension of the executive branch.

Until this last election, that is. It has not only buried the two-party system and suddenly forced parliamentarian manners on the political culture but also revealed a lack of political stewardship and negotiation skills that is putting Spain’s still young democracy to the test. As for the public and the media, they have required a crash course on the rules and procedures of a genuine parliamentary system of government.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment since the election came when Mariano Rajoy, head of the conservative PP and acting prime minister, rejected the King’s offer to — as head of the list with the most votes — lead the effort to gather support in the Cortes (176 votes needed for outright majority) to form a government. Rajoy declared himself unwilling while insisting he was not stepping aside.

 A tactical maneuver that went against a basic tenet of parliamentarian life: if the party with the most votes is unable to form a government, other parties get a shot. Rajoy wanted it both ways: avoid the political costs of a failed attempt while remaining on the sidelines arguing that his party had the most votes and therefore the right to govern.

Note EU-Digest: Mariano Rajoy seems to have received his "basic political training" in obstructionist politics from fellow Conservatives in the US Republican party, who also have a habit of using undemocratic obstructionist tactics. 

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