ANALYSIS: What will the new right-wing coalition government do with Andalusia after 40 years of socialism?

Traditional Catholic conservatives propose radical overhaul of regional government system while liberal reformists defend the status quo.

ANALYSIS: What will the new right-wing coalition government do with Andalusia after 40 years of socialism?
Women shout during a demonstration against the far-right party VOX outside parliament in Seville. Photo: AFP

The Popular Party has done very well out of the results of the elections in Andalusia, their worst ever with just 21 percent of the vote.

Juanma Moreno, spun as Mariano Rajoy’s candidate by the new leader’s team during the campaign (he was expected to be replaced), gets to govern the 8.4 million citizens in Spain’s most populous region from this week, following a confidence vote in the regional parliament today.

Diario Sur reports the outgoing socialists have organised busloads of feminists to protest outside the door. It will be the first time the PSOE has not governed in its southern heartland since the early 1980s.

After weeks of negotiations with Vox and Ciudadanos, the result is as most expected it to be on election night: the Popular Party will lead the coalition government, Ciudadanos gets the Deputy First Minister’s job and a few other briefs, and controls the regional chamber via the Speaker’s Committee, and Vox will support from parliament and has had some of its manifesto points included in the programme for government, in a document negotiated last week with the PP. Vox is electoral kryptonite for Ciudadanos, which hardly wants to mention the party, never mind place its signature next to Mr. Abascal’s brand on the same piece of paper for posterity.

Two polls out over the past few days (El Español, Electomania) suggest why that might be the case: Ciudadanos and Popular Party voters are not very far from Vox positions at all on either illegal immigration or gender violence laws, two of the new party’s most controversial media issues. 86.5 percent of Ciudadanos voters and 82.1 percent of PP voters would like to see illegal immigrants deported. 98 percent of PP voters and 93 percent of Ciudadanos voters would like to see some level of reform of gender violence legislation. Vox wants to repeal existing laws and introduce new ones that talk of domestic or “intrafamily” violence. Ciudadanos wants to promote current legislation and provide much more public funding for it.

This is not so much of a problem for the Popular Party, which is trying to regain favour among the growing Vox crowd—”the PP is the original version”, Pablo Casado said yesterday during a radio interview—but it poses a brand management problem for Albert Rivera, because Ciudadanos is supposed to be liberal reformist, not immigrant bashing anti-feminist.

A detailed look at the documents each party has negotiated with the PP shows that out of more than 150 discernible policy points, the three parties only seem to agree on five things: lowering inheritance and income taxes, promoting education for 16-18 year olds in mostly Catholic public-private schools, allowing parents to freely choose the schools their children attend, encouraging better work-life balance for busy parents…and protecting flamenco.

Photo: AFP

There are another five areas where they could probably get something useful done even if they are not in complete agreement at this early stage: reining in regional commercial offices abroad, slashing public funding for NGOs, slimming down regional bureaucracy, cutting costs at Canal Sur, the regional public TV station, and providing more funds to the police to deal with immigration.

This last point could be very conflictive. Vox says the regional health service will be handing over details of temporary ID documents for 52,000 illegal immigrants to the police so that they can do their work applying existing immigration legislation. The actual wording of the agreement with the PP is fuzzier and says the new regional executive will provide “documentary support” to the police for “border control”.

Two National Police unions put out a statement on Friday backing Vox on the numbers and saying they would welcome such a measure. They publicly accused the outgoing administration of “institutional disloyalty” towards the central government on the matter.

The PP has also agreed with Vox to set up a new regional families ministry, which will include more support for women with unwanted pregnancies (an anti-abortion policy), tax cuts for big families (a nod to Catholics), and a regional adoption plan.

The PP-Vox document, though, leaves out any mention of what might well be Mr. Abascal’s most radical suggestion for Spain: getting rid of Spanish regional governments and parliaments altogether, a policy position that has some logic to it depending on one’s diagnosis of the root causes of the Catalan separatist crisis but which has already generated vociferous rejection from regional nationalists and establishment constitutionalists alike. Given the 1978 Constitution contains articles and procedures allowing for its complete reform, the notion is not unconstitutional per se, as long as Vox were to gather the required amount of support and go about the process in the proper way. The PP-Ciudadanos document, though, calls for a defence of the status quo.

The right, which is now split three ways, is about to try to prove it can do governing coalitions in Spain, within the limits of the current system (so no fascism or tyranny, despite the panicked messaging from Podemos or the PSOE).

This bodes badly for the left as Spain gets to grips with five- or six-party politics, and there are only four months to go until all of the other elections in May, with the possibility of an early general election too.

Matthew Bennett is the creator of The Spain Report. You can read more of his writing on Patreon, and follow him on Twitter. Don't miss his podcast series with weekly in-depth analysis on Spain.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: 2019 in Spanish politics – How much creative destruction will Vox unleash?

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Will Spain have a sixth coronavirus wave?

While Covid infections are rising across Europe, Spain has managed to keep cases and hospitalisations low so far this autumn. But there are already signs things may be changing. 

people walk without masks on ramblas barcelona during covid times
Spain’s epidemiological situation is the most favourable in the EU and a sixth wave but will there be a sixth wave? Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

Coronavirus cases have been rising quickly across Europe since October but not so in Spain, which has maintained one of the lowest infection, hospitalisation and death rates on the continent. 

According to prestigious medical publication The Lancet, Spain could well be on the verge of reaching herd immunity, a statement the country’s Health Minister tends to agree with.  

READ ALSO: Has Spain almost reached herd immunity?

Add the favourable epidemiological indicators to the almost 80 percent rate of full vaccination of Spain’s entire population and the immunity claim doesn’t seem so far-fetched. 

But if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught governments around the world – or should have – is to not assume Covid-19 can be eradicated after a few encouraging weeks. 

Not that Spain is letting down its guard, the general public continues to take mask wearing in indoor spaces seriously (outdoors as well even though not required in many situations) and there are still some regional restrictions in place. 

READ MORE: What Covid-19 restrictions are in place in Spain’s regions in November?

And yet, Covid infections are on the rise again, although not at the pace seen during previous waves of the virus. 

On Thursday November 4th Spain re-entered the Health Ministry’s “medium risk” category after the national fortnightly infection rate surpassed 50 cases per 100,000 people.

From Friday 5th to Monday 8th, it climbed five more points up to 58 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

It’s the biggest rise since last July but this shouldn’t be cause for alarm, especially as hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths all remain low and steady.

A closer look at the stats shows that 1.52 percent of hospital beds across the country are currently occupied by Covid patients, 4.41 percent in the case of ICU beds. 

Daily Covid deaths in October were under 20 a day, the lowest rate since August 2020. 

With all this in mind, is a sixth wave of the coronavirus in Spain at all likely?

According to a study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Spain will have a sixth wave.

The Seattle-based research group predicts an increase in infections in Spain from the second half of November, which will skyrocket in December reaching the highest peak towards the end of the year. 

The country would reportedly need about 24,000 beds for Covid patients (4,550 for critical ones) and there would be almost 2,000 deaths. 

Increased social interactions would mean that on December 30th alone, daily Covid infections in Spain could reach 92,000, the study claims. 

If restrictions were tightened ahead of the holiday period, including the use of face masks, the sixth wave’s peak wouldn’t be as great, IHME states

It’s worth noting that the IHME wrongly predicted that Spain wouldn’t be affected by a fifth wave whereas it ended up causing more than a million infections and 5,000 deaths. 

two elderly women in san sebastian during covid times
The vaccination rate among over 70s in Spain is almost 100 percent. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

The latest message from Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias is that currently “the virus is cornered” in the country, whilst admitting that there was a slight rise in cases. 

“I do not know if there will be a sixth wave, but first we must remember that immunisation is not complete in all patients despite vaccinations,” Dr. José Polo , president of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen), told El Periódico de España

“That’s because 100 percent effectiveness doesn’t exist in any drug, or in any medicine”.

Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Spain still has around 4.2 million eligible people who haven’t been vaccinated, mostly people aged 20 to 40. 

The majority of Covid hospitalisations across Spain are patients who have not been vaccinated: 90 percent in the Basque Country, 70 percent in Catalonia and 60 percent in Andalusia.

Among Covid ICU patients, 90 percent of people in critical condition across all regions are unvaccinated. 

“Although there are many people vaccinated in Spain, there will be an increase in cases because we know how the virus is transmitted and when the cold comes and the evenings are darker we will tend to go indoors, and the virus spreads there,” Cesar Carballo, Vice President of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine of Madrid, told La Sexta news.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned that Europe is at a  “critical point of regrowth”  and that it has once again become the “epicentre”  of the pandemic, due to the generalised spike in cases in recent weeks.

Does that mean that Spain’s daily infections won’t be in the thousands again as winter nears? Or that regional governments won’t reintroduce Covid measures ahead of Christmas to prevent this from happening?

Nothing is for certain, but as things stand Spain’s epidemiological situation is the most favourable in the EU and a sixth wave seems unlikely, but not impossible.

The Spanish government continues to push ahead with its vaccination campaign, reopening its vaccination centres, administering booster shots to its most vulnerable and considering vaccinating under 12s to meet an immunity target of 90 percent.