Voting on the Competitiveness Fund at the Spanish Parliament pushes the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) into a quagmire
The Spanish Government risked losing an important vote at the Parliament if members of the Catalan Socialists had voted the same they did in the Senate. However, they voted together with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). By obliging the PSC to choose between its vote coherence and its loyalty to the PSOE, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition CiU dislocated the PSC in the middle of the municipal election campaign. The rejected motion had asked the Spanish Government to reconsider its stance and pay the Competitiveness Fund’s 1.45 billion euros in 2011.
Madrid (ACN).- The Spanish Government, run by the Socialist PM José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, saved an important vote at the Parliament on Tuesday evening thanks to the support of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). However, the PSC paid a high price for offering its support: appearing as incoherent and as going against Catalan interests in the middle of the municipal election campaign. The PSC rejected a motion presented by CiU that asked the Spanish Government to pay for the Competitiveness Fund\u2019s 1.45 billion euros owed to Catalonia. The PSC voted in the Spanish Parliament differently to what it did two weeks ago at the Senate. The Spanish Government refuses to pay this money in 2011, a decision that puts in jeopardy the Catalan Government\u2019s budget and its commitment to reduce Catalonia\u2019s deficit. However, this money is neither included in the Spanish Government\u2019s budget for 2011, although the item was included in the 2009 and 2010 budgets. If the motion would have been approved, PM Zapatero would have much less room to play with for not paying the money associated to this fund for the most dynamic areas in Spain and its \u201Csibling\u201D fund for the less dynamic ones. In total, it amounts to more than four billion euros, a figure that might have an effect on the Spanish Government\u2019s budget deficit. Zapatero\u2019s priority is to give his Government enough stability now that international financial markets are looking in Spain\u2019s direction. And he puts the problem on the Autonomous Community deficit.
CiU brought the issue to the Spanish Parliament, after having received the Senate\u2019s support
A motion asking for this payment to be made in 2011 was already approved on April 27th by the Spanish Senate, with the support of the People\u2019s Party (PP) and all Catalan senators, including the PSC. However, CiU wanted to bring the issue to the Spanish Parliament to put more pressure on the Spanish Government and the Catalan Socialists. It therefore presented a motion and forced a vote. This movement has forced the PSC to either break its voting coherence or break its support to the Spanish Government by voting differently to the rest of the Socialist MPs. In other words, to choose between loyalty to the PSOE or defending Catalan interests 12 days before the municipal elections are held. The PSC is actually risking suffering a very harsh defeat in the polls, and the last thing it needed was to appear as going against Catalan interests. However, the PSC chose PSOE, saving Zapatero\u2019s party from losing a vote that would have pushed the Spanish Government to pay more than four billion euros to the Autonomous Communities.
The Spanish Government did not suffer a defeat at the Parliament thanks to the votes from the 25 PSC members. Rosa Díez, the only MP from the populist and Spanish Nationalist \u2018Unión Progreso y Democracia\u2019 (UPyD), supported the Spanish Governemnt and voted against. All the rest of the parliamentary groups either abstained or supported CiU\u2019s motion. However, due to absent MP and parliamentary arithmetic, the motion was rejected with 168 votes against, 161 \u2018yes\u2019 votes and 10 abstentions. It is significant to point out the abstention of the Centre-Right Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). After the Spanish Constitutional Court legalised the pro-Basque independence coalition Bildu, the PNV kept its word and gave its indirect support to the PSOE by abstaining and contributing to blocking CiU\u2019s motion. It has to be said that the Basque Country has a different fiscal scheme and would have not benefited from the money discussed by the motion. Not only the Basques but also the Canary Island regionalists abstained, after negotiations with the PSOE. Finally, the support of the Spanish Nationalist and Conservative People\u2019s Party (PP), the main opposition party, which backed CiU\u2019s text, deserves special mention. The PP already endorsed the motion in the Senate and actually its President Mariano Rajoy said in Catalonia that he was in favour of paying the Competitiveness Fund\u2019s money this 2011.
The People\u2019s Party\u2019s spokesperson for economic matters, Cristóbal Montoro criticised the Socialists for having paid the Competitiveness Fund\u2019s money in 2009 and in 2010 but refused doing so in 2011, \u201Cnow that the Catalan Government is run by another party\u201D.
Besides, the two main parties in Catalonia, the PSC and CiU, have accused each other of only thinking about the May 22nd municipal elections. Francesc Vallès, MP from the PSC, accused the CiU of \u201Cacting for electoral reasons\u201D for presenting the motion now, putting the PSC in this dilemma and using the absence of payment as an excuse to hide social expenditure cuts. CiU\u2019s spokesperson at the Spanish Parliament, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, stated that \u201Cthe PSC defended PSOE\u2019s interests and not Catalonia\u2019s\u201D. CiU MP Josep Sánchez Llibre accused the PSC of acting for electoral reasons for wanting the issue to be discussed in a bilateral commission between the Spanish and the Catalan Government.
The rest of the Catalan parties made statements along the same line. The spokesperson for the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) Joan Ridao accused the PSC of \u201Cdefending, as always Spain\u2019s interests\u201D. The spokesperson for the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA) Núria Buenaventura asked \u201Cwhy the PSC did not want the Competitiveness Fund to be paid?\u201D Buenaventura added \u201Cthey will have to give a very good explanation\u201D.
The PSC\u2019s complex link with the PSOE
The PSC is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) through a federation agreement. In the Spanish Senate PSC members have a separate group to the PSOE. In fact, 30 years ago, the PSC also had its own group in the Spanish Parliament but in the early 1980s, the PSC and the PSOE groups merged. Having its own group is a recurrent debate in the party, especially in the last number of years and from the most \u201CCatalanist\u201D side of the party.
In Catalonia, the other political parties profit from the awkward situations the PSC link with the PSOE produces, as it weakens PSC\u2019s stance in Catalonia. However, it is not easy for the PSC to make the decision to have again its own group in the Spanish Parliament: if the PSC did so, the Spanish political make up would change. PM Zapatero\u2019s group would have 25 seats less (from the current 169 seats) and the PP would be the largest group. If this would have been the case in the 2008 elections, PP\u2019s President Mariano Rajoy would have won and not José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero (although later the PP would very likely not have been able to form a government). One could think that this situation gives the PSC a particular strength within the PSOE, even more so after analysing the election results and seeing that the only place in Spain where the Socialists win easily against the PP is in Catalonia. However, the PSC seems weak within the PSOE, as it fears that it will form its own group in the Spanish Parliament, the PSOE would break its alliance with the PSC in Catalonia. The PSC fears the PSOE would present their own candidates in Catalonia, which would steal many votes from the PSC.
Therefore, both the PSOE and the PSC would take many risks by breaking the alliance. The price to pay for the PSC is showing loyalty to the PSOE; even at the cost of appearing as going against Catalan interests 12 days before the local elections take place. The price to pay for the PSOE is appearing in the rest of Spain as not enough of a Spanish nationalist party by allowing the PSC to defend pro-Catalan stances. However, in the last number of years, both sides are trying to distance themselves from the other. The PSC created a separate group in the Senate with other Left-Wing Catalan parties, as they had more chances to get elected. The PSOE abandoned its support to the PSC and the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy during the four years the text was discussed by the Spanish Constitutional Court and, when a restrictive sentence was issued, the PSOE washed its hands. More and more they seem like an old marriage that needs to stay together for logistic reasons but that sleeps in separate bedrooms.