“The government that I preside considers the constitutional pact fully in force. And the constitutional pact is the parliamentary monarchy.” With these two sentences, the chief executive and secretary general of the PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, settled this Tuesday the aspirations of his coalition partner, United We Can, to open the debate on a referendum on the state model and its Headquarters. Between monarchy and republic. Everything, on account of the announcement of the Royal Household that the king emeritus has decided to leave Spain, surrounded judicially and politically by the heritage that he keeps hidden, supposedly, in Switzerland and other tax havens, and that neither he nor his heir, Felipe VI, have denied. A decision that has been applauded by the socialist part of the Executive, but which has been openly criticized from the confederal area.
Sánchez assures that he does not know where Juan Carlos I is and stresses his support for the monarchy: “What is judged are not institutions, people are judged”
The notice of the departure from Spain of Juan Carlos de Borbón, issued by Zarzuela at the start of the parsimonious month of August, took by surprise the minor partner of the coalition. From Unidas Podemos they have insisted that they knew nothing of the negotiations between the head of state and the Executive to decide the departure of the king emeritus. But in recent weeks several media outlets had reported on plans being prepared at the Royal Household, in communication with the Government, to try to contain social unrest that threatened to spill over. If the events in Botswana, in the midst of the financial crisis that erupted a decade ago, pushed the king to abdicate to avoid further damage to the monarchical institution, six years later something similar happened in the midst of another crisis, this time caused by the COVID-19.
Said negotiation between the Head of State and the Executive Power has been carried out by the first vice president, Carmen Calvo, as reported by TVE on the same Monday. But Unidas Podemos was not aware of the talks, they say. This was confirmed by the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, in an interview on the SER network first thing on Tuesday. To journalist’s questions, the number two de Podemos avoided using the word “disloyalty” to refer to the PSOE’s way of acting. Yes I did, soon after, the president of the parliamentary group of Unidas Podemos, Jaume Asens.
But the criticisms of Unidas Podemos go beyond the fact that Calvo and Sánchez acted without informing their government partners, a situation that Sánchez justified before the press in the due “discretion” of the talks between the Head of State and the head of the Executive. Every time the press asked him about it, he gave the same answer.
The reaction sent to the media from the Palacio de la Moncloa, in which the decision taken by Felipe VI and Juan Carlos I was praised on behalf of the Executive, while applauding the “exemplary and transparent” of the current king, provoked the reaction of the confederal group. In a statement, the parliamentary group assured that the departure of the King Emeritus of Spain is “unacceptable to the majority”, directly confronting the message that the socialist part of the Government launched. In addition, they pointed out that “the idea of a solidarity and plurinational republic is breaking through” and they asked that “the people decide”. In other words, a referendum.
Montero, in his interview at SER, described Juan Carlos I’s “flight” as “unworthy” and assured that Moncloa’s reaction “is not a decision of the Government” since it had not been discussed within the Executive of coalition. “I respect the decision that the PSOE can make from the Moncloa,” he concluded, circumscribing the praises to the party of the president and the vice president. A PSOE that remains silent on the announcement of the Royal House.
“What is judged are not institutions, people are judged”
Irene Montero avoided in the interview to classify the facts and referred to a subsequent debate within the Council of Ministers that met this Tuesday for the last time before the August holidays. The debate should have taken place, although it has not transpired in what terms. What is clear is that it was long, because the usual appearance of the Prime Minister to close the political course was postponed several times, until she finally started at three o’clock in the afternoon, just in time for the television news.
In the address to the media in which Sánchez took stock of the first months of the legislature, the Prime Minister avoided referring to the first issue that has managed to distract the informational attention from the health, economic and social crisis caused by the coronavirus. The journalists, however, focused practically all their questions precisely on the departure of the emeritus king from Spain.
Sánchez wanted to settle the differences with his government partner in public. First, he warned the opposition that the coalition is in good health and that it intends to end its mandate when it hits, in 2023. In fact, it indicated by that date the total exit from the economic crisis that plagues Spain. On several occasions he repeated that his alliance with those of Pablo Iglesias is not at risk, despite the fact that the PP and Vox, and Ciudadanos with less emphasis, have asked Sánchez to break with his partners. The parliamentary spokeswoman for Pablo Casado, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, has claimed a Government of “Constitutionalist Concentration”.
The second vice-president himself confirmed this position. In an interview at night in Telecinco, Iglesias said that “no one can be surprised” that there are differences between the PSOE and United We Can when it comes to monarchy. “When there is an annoying situation [en la coalición], Pedro Sánchez and I solved it, “he assured, without disclosing, by” discretion “, the conversation he has been able to have with the Prime Minister.
But Sánchez also made clear the position of the PSOE, as the majority party in the coalition and the main party today in Congress. First, by separating Felipe VI from the events that have been known so far: “What is judged is not institutions, people are judged.” A statement that directly conflicts with what was expressed hours earlier by Irene Montero, who said that “no one separates the actions of Juan Carlos I from his position as monarch and therefore from his family. The institution is inherited, the decisions of the king are impossible to separate of his family”.
Then, when closing the door to a popular consultation on the state model. Sánchez said three times: “The Government that I preside considers the constitutional pact fully in force.” At the insistence of journalists in the request for a referendum by United We Can, the last time he uttered the phrase, he added: “And the constitutional pact is the parliamentary monarchy.” A double statement that no one has denied, at least for the moment, from United We Can.
But Sánchez also momentarily put himself in the role of secretary general of the PSOE and pointed out that his “is the only party that remains alive from that pact of ’78. We are the architects of the Constitution.” The Prime Minister forgot another party that was in the Transition negotiations, the PCE, just a week after expressly recalling in Congress the role played by the communists in the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Slips apart, the socialist leader thus stressed from the Palacio de la Moncloa the role of his party.
In this sense, Iglesias did not want to argue with Sánchez either. In the Telecinco interview, the second vice president said that his party “respects the law and the Spanish Constitution”, which he defended as “a lowest common denominator”. “We do not stop vindicating the social articles as a guide to face the crisis and reconstruction,” he settled, recalling the electoral campaigns of 2019.
That yes, Churches said that “there is a social debate in Spain on the utility of the monarchy”, although “the parliamentary correlations do not allow a constituent process”. “There is a historical process that will have as a horizon a republic that will modernize this country. Sooner or later the young people will promote a republic in Spain, the debate is legitimate,” he concluded.
Harder were the reactions from outside the government. It was the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and, again, Jaume Asens, Podemos state leader, who criticized Sánchez’s speech. “Other people’s shame and indignation,” Colau said in her message. “Disappointing,” Asens noted. With the suitcases already prepared, it will be around the holidays when this matter is taken up, if it is taken up again.