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Is the New Leader of Spain’s PSOE the Change Spain Needs?


Virtually unknown to the general public prior to July 26th, Pedro Sánchez was far from being a leader within the PSOE itself. One might wonder how, in a matter of just a few weeks, this man became the leader of the second most important political party in the fifth biggest economy in the EU and the thirteenth in the world.

As of July 26th, Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón is the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE in Spanish: Partido Socialista Obrero Español), replacing Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba following the party’s poor results in the 2014 European Parliament election.

Virtually unknown to the general public prior to July 26th, Pedro Sánchez was far from being a leader within the PSOE itself. One might wonder how, in a matter of just a few weeks, this man became the leader of the second most important political party in the fifth biggest economy in the EU and the thirteenth in the world. One might also wonder what this man would do if he were to become the next Prime Minister of Spain.

In an interview[1] given on August 3rd to the so-called leftist daily newspaper El País, Pedro Sánchez briefly provided a general picture of its political program. Some of the ideas he proposed caught my attention.

First, he wants the Spanish Constitution to be modified. Without employing the word “federal” used by the interviewer, he answered “Catalonia has become an urgent problem which has to be solved and which involves thoroughly revisiting our institutional architecture, that is, the constitutional reform.” The second point of interest to me is the fact he made no mention of leaving the European Union, which means he will have to agree with its economic policy whether he likes it or not since it is practically impossible to modify. Let’s see why. In the same article, he argues he’s in favor of depreciating the Euro to become more competitive. How would the German government respond to such a suggestion? I think Germany would in all likelihood refuse, since its economy benefits from a strong Euro. Finally, with regard to his economic views, Pedro Sánchez explicitly said “I distrust monopolies and oligopolies, but I believe in economic freedom” (neither Milton Friedman nor Margaret Thatcher could have said it better), which needs no comment.

The reading of this article drove me to take a closer look at this man, his educational and political background, and the details of his political program. Why? Because he has a good chance of becoming the next Prime Minister of Spain—too quickly and too easily, in my opinion.

What he studied, where and his later political activity

In the interview mentioned above, P.S. introduces himself as a professor who was not involved in politics two years and a half ago. Surprisingly, when you look at his background, the reality is a “little” bit different.

He obtained a Masters in European political economy from The Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)[2] (French for Free University of Brussels) and a Masters in Public Leadership from theIESE Business School (Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa, English: “Institute of Higher Business Studies” or “International Graduate School of Management”). As we shall see, these academic qualifications mark the beginning of a career leading clearly towards the construction of the European Union.

At the age of 26, he started his professional life as an advisor at the European Parliament and, later on, as a High Representative of the United Nations during the Kosovo War. After those years of public service at the international level, he started his political career within the PSOE in 2000 when he joined the inner circle of José Blanco[3], the right hand man of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s Prime Minister from 2004 to 2011. His political experience can hardly be considered successful since he has never held an elected office at any level[4]. In fact, Pedro Sánchez has only ever worked in the shadow of other socialist political leaders.

Nevertheless, even though he never hid his political ambition, Pedro Sánchez unexpectedly became the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party on July 26th. The first step toward being the next Spanish Prime Minister, a job he will willingly[5] accept in order to implement his political program.

Political program?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into his views on what should be done in Spain with regard to two key points in particular. All the details are available at his website http://Sánchezcastejon.es, in Mis Propuestas – Mis diez Compromisos (My Proposals – My Ten Commitments)

Federalism – confirming his point of view on this issue (see the interview in El País) when talking about reforming the Constitution (Mis Propuestas – Mis diez Compromisos Point 2. La reforma de la Constitución), he states [6] “[…] A reform that must define the federal nature of Spain, so the autonomous governments can achieve self-governance with the same funding and granting solidarity, can ensure healthcare and education rights …”    

(Mis Propuestas – Mis diez Compromisos Point 8. Una política inequívocamente de izquierdas)”Secular, federal, with republican values,…”

Taxation system – also on his website (see Mis Propuestas – Mis diez Compromisos point 3 a progressive taxation reform): he is in favor of a progressive taxation, strengthening oversight, and ending tax benefits for speculators. In addition, he makes a commitment to setting up a tax on big fortunes as well.

My thoughts

After reading the proposals he posted on his website, there are some remarks I think need to be highlighted in order to gain a better idea of what might be happening in Spain.

First, his proposals or commitments on economic issues are quite limited in number and quality. With the exception of the devaluation of the Euro, economic freedom (see interview in El País mentioned above), and fiscal policy, he says too little about the economy. This is quite odd when you realise that P.S is currently working as a professor of Economics and he regards himself an economist. The problems he addresses are mainly societal and he appears to set aside the economy. We could speculate on his reasons. Maybe he is realistic enough to understand that under European Union rules, there’s simply nothing left to decide. Like all EU members, he’s constrained. Maybe this is a strategic decision because he doesn’t want to put all his cards on the table. Who knows?

Secondly, to expound on what I just said concerning the EU, the question that arises is: How does he expect to change EU economic policy? Are the 28 members going to agree to that? If just one of them disagrees, then there’s no agreement, and this is very easy to understand. The Lisbon Treaty signed by its members does not allow for any independent decisions concerning economic policy. So, any economic decision (like the devaluation of the Euro) at EU level can only be taken with the agreement of all its members.

Thirdly, changing the constitution to make a federal system means a step toward independence for communities like Catalonia and the Basque Country, ideas which are nowhere near reaching a consensus in Spain. As an example, when you look at the polls on the independence of Catalonia, the vast majority of Spanish citizens are against separating the country from this very important region.

It might still be too early to get an accurate portrait of this man, seen by some as the new hope for the country. It is true we cannot yet draw any definitive conclusions since he has not done enough to be judged on, but after just a cursory look at his academic degrees (and where he got them), his political background and very importantly, his political program, I don’t have the feeling Pedro Sánchez is going to profoundly change the path that our ruling elites are currently leading us down. Nor do I think he will meaningfully criticize the European Union (the puppet of Washington) or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

If I were a fortune teller, I would say Pedro Sánchez will be the next Spanish Prime Minister. He has got a good shot because he’s young, he’s a fresh face on the political scene without any scandals or trials behind him, and his political program is bound to attract those disappointed by politicians. Although he’s apparently different from the current political elite, I think this savior is here to meet two aims: first, to alleviate the widespread feeling of frustration and disappointment; secondly, to carry on with the global agenda as dictated by Washington and Brussels.

Who really needs the changes he proposes for Spain?

Who will really benefit from his changes?

Will it be the Spaniards, Brussels or Washington?

 

[1] http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2014/08/02/actualidad/1407005017_114765.html

[2]http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Diputados/BusqForm?_piref73_1333155_73_1333154_1333154.next_page=/wc/fichaDiputado&idDiputado=381

[3] http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Sánchez_Pérez-Castejón#cite_ref-eldiario01_8-0

[4] http://www.eldiario.es/politica/Pedro-Sánchez-siempre-quedaba-puertas_0_270173314.html

[5] http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2014/08/02/actualidad/1407005017_114765.html

[6] http://Sánchezcastejon.es/mis-diez-compromisos/ (look at point 2.Reform of the Constitution)

 

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