As the pandemic swept the country, infecting more than 245,000 people and hobbling the economy, the Spanish were treated to one of the deadliest and most speechless versions of the habit of Punch and Judy, politics .
The six extensions of the state of emergency were hard won by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, Socialist of the coalition and forced the government into pragmatic alliances with the two Catalan pro-independence deputies and Basque nationalists. While Sanchez has said, perhaps a little hypocritically, that he has “no enemy, but the virus”, his opponents have begged him differ – and virulently so.
Pablo Casado, leader of the popular party, has repeatedly accused PM of trying to hide the human cost of the pandemic and has said that he does not deserve the support of the opposition. “Your arrogance, your lies and your ineffectiveness are an explosive combination for Spain,” Casado said in April.
Meanwhile the far-right Vox party, which seeks to oust the PP as the dominant force over Spanish law, claimed that the socialists and their partners in the far-left anti-austerity Podemos alliance are seeking to replace normality democratic “with totalitarianism, one based on the uncertainty that has led Spain to nothing, but more death, more ruin, more unemployment and less freedom”.
The beards, however, were not one-sided. Pablo Iglesias, Podemos leader and Deputy Prime Minister, has a long history of sharing his shadow of wisdom with the chamber. During the month of the crisis, he suggested that Vox would like to see a coup in Spain, but did not have the courage to stage one, and said to his Deputies: “You are not even fascists – you’re just parasites. ”
Insults and lack of consensus are all evidence of divisions in Spanish politics following the economic crisis of 2008, the end of long decades of PP duopoly and the Socialists and four general elections for many years.
“Spain was already very polarized after the rehearsal of the election last November: you had the express formation of a government which is considered to be most of the left forces in recent history and a right that is fragmented and full of internal rivalries, and therefore feels compelled to enter into clashes with the government, ”said Pablo Simon, political scientist in Madrid, at Carlos III University.
The pandemic, he added, has served as “little of a time tunnel”, accelerating the current dynamic and offering some political actors an opportunity to reposition themselves.
The Party Citizens’ Law Center is a case in point: after a disastrous, and almost fatal, offer to abandon middle-ground politics and the challenge of the PP on the right, the party was forced to return to the center for survive and has recently shown willingness to support the government.
Simón also points out that for all the rage and fury, the polls changed very little during the pandemic. “If you unpack all the surveys and look at the voting intentions, the people on the left have enormous confidence in the government’s management of the pandemic – despite the mistakes that may have been made and the people on the right are deeply suspicious.”
What is happening next door, both economically and epidemiologically, could make a difference, he added. At the moment, however, it is business as usual – but at a more acute, Covid-19 frequency. Or, as Simon said, “It’s the same song we’ve always heard, but this time the lyrics have changed.”