Pedro Sánchez aims to build a protective firewall around Spain’s monarchy, even though he and his party risk being scorched.
Following the former King Juan Carlos’ departure from Spain last week amid a corruption scandal, the prime minister has thrown his weight behind the country’s monarchy. Arguing that Spain needs “stability and robust institutions,” he has sought to draw a clear distinction between the former king’s alleged financial misdeeds and the current occupant of the throne, King Felipe VI.
In an unusual move, Sánchez sent three ministers to Mallorca to accompany Felipe during his official appearances on the island. The prime minister himself made the trip on Wednesday for an official audience with the king.
But some members of his social democrat PSOE party have expressed discomfort. They complain that although the party leadership often cites the party’s “republican values,” it has never found the right time to actually fight for them.
An old tweet celebrating the anniversary of the defunct Second Spanish Republic by Sánchez in 2014 (before he became prime minister) is now being used by his critics to point to the party’s ambiguous position.
Sánchez’s campaign to protect the sitting monarch also risks pushing away younger voters and party members, among whom republican sentiment is strong.
In an interview with Spanish public broadcaster RTVE that same year Sánchez said his “is a republican party” but one which respects the constitution, adding that a debate about the model of the state is one for the long-term future.
While monarchy-skeptics in his party wait for that future to arrive, Sánchez’s lifeline to king Felipe also appears in line with the pair’s cordial personal relationship. In “Manual de resistencia,” Sánchez’s autobiography, the prime minister revealed the content of some of his private conversations with Felipe and how they “connected in a special way, trusted each other and established a very frank relationship” during the failed bid for independence in Catalonia in the fall of 2017.
Whatever his personal feelings, the future of the monarchy is trickier politically for the socialist prime minister than for his rivals in the political center or on the right. According to a poll by Sigma Dos for El Mundo, 48 percent of those who voted for him in the last general election are republicans, versus 41.9 percent who support the monarchy. And just 52.7 percent of PSOE voters approved of Felipe’s performance as king. By contrast, 91.6 percent of those who voted for the right-wing Popular Party backed the king, as did 85.5 percent of those who voted for the liberal Ciudadanos party.
Juan Francisco Fuentes, a historian at the Complutense University of Madrid, said the PSOE has always harbored republican sentiment, but that has not prevented the party from cooperating with the monarchy.
“A long time ago a historic socialist leader referred to the ‘platonic republicanism’ of the Spanish socialism. It is a similar situation to that of other European monarchies in which the left takes a republican stance compatible with the institutional cohabitation with the monarchy,” he said.
Sánchez’s campaign to protect the sitting monarch also risks pushing away younger voters and party members, among whom republican sentiment is strong. Feeling the heat, Juventudes Socialistas, the youth wing of PSOE, issued a statement stressing that they are still a “republican organization” which “advocates for a republic and aims for the establishment of this model of state.” Echoing Sánchez, though, they stressed the need for “institutional stability” during the coronavirus crisis.
Sánchez also faces a threat from within his own government. The far-left and vehemently republican Podemos, PSOE’s coalition partners, have seized on public disgust with Juan Carlos’s alleged actions. And they hope to capitalize politically by pulling support from PSOE.
“On behalf of whom does [the PM’s office] Moncloa speak? I doubt it will be on behalf of the thousands of socialists whose republican families gave their lives for democracy,” Ada Colau, Barcelona mayor and close to Podemos, tweeted.
Recognizing the political danger of his pro-monarchy stance, Sánchez wrote a letter to his party’s members last week explaining his reasons. Protecting the institution was vital, he argued, to avoid “gifting the conservatives with the exclusivity over the constitutional inheritance.” That would be “the worst mistake” PSOE could make, he wrote.
Some within the party are pushing for reforms that fall short of the abolition of the monarchy. Odón Elorza, MP and former San Sebastián mayor, warns that without changes that make the monarchy more transparent “public frustration will be huge.”
“One of the pending problems the rule of law faces is the article 56 of the constitution, when it sets out the king’s immunity without distinguishing between their activities as head of state and their personal actions,” he pointed out.
So far, though, Sánchez has no interest in such nuance. The republicans within his ranks will have to keep waiting.
The post Pedro Sánchez’s support for Spain’s monarchy risks alienating supporters appeared first on Politico.