That photo in Colón, just two years ago, was almost an epitaph. Albert Rivera, then leader of Ciudadanos, escorted among his own, uncomfortable on the right side of the stage, almost on the way out. On the other side, Santiago Abascal and Pablo Casado, separated by Cristiano Brown. Who?
The then candidate of the extinct UPyD of Rosa Díez, which was officially liquidated on December 6 with 500 members. The motto of that event was “A United Spain.” At that time, seven center-right and right-wing parties from all over Spain were represented on the stage.
The photo has gone sepia in 24 months. That portrait, already forced then, is impossible today. The only formation of those that is currently growing is Vox, of the extreme right. Nobody is betting now, in the short or medium term, on Spain Suma.
“Casado receives the party in 2018 divided into three parts,” says Esperanza Aguirre, former president of Madrid and a reference of the liberal PP, who adds: “After the 2019 elections, with the resounding fall of Citizens from 57 to 10 deputies, Casado decides to stay in the center to see if the two and a half million voters of Ciudadanos reach him.
Then last summer he left Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo out,that she was an intelligent spokesperson, and in Vox’s motion of censure she separated herself by bravado and with unacceptable attacks on Santi Abascal, because she takes his support for granted.
Aguirre, increasingly delighted with the style and strength of her successor, Díaz Ayuso, concludes: “But as seen in Catalonia, we have not taken anything from Ciudadanos and the bases of the PP and Vox, which are close, no They understand that I have said that it does not matter if a flag of Spain or a star is hanging on a balcony ”.
The terrible results in Catalonia of Cs (collapse from 36 to six seats) and the PP (fall from four to three) have meant a cataclysm for the two formations. And there is disappointment about his uncertain future. The international scene does not accompany, with the rise of populism and the extreme right, the embers of Trumpism in the United States and the good prospects for Marine le Pen in France, with her National Regrouping increasingly occupying more political space.
Nobody believes in the PP, Cs or Vox that these three parties are going to merge in future appointments. Most of the fifteen leaders of those formations consulted think that “Cs is dead”, the “lost PP” and that “Vox has come to stay.”
This week, in different media, an Abascal grown after the Catalan sorpasso has condescendingly encouraged the PP and Cs to join, since, according to him, they have the same program and “it would be good for Spain.”
The leader of Vox does not care that at first, the merger places the new formation above the expectations that have been set for Vox in voting intention. Abascal’s relations with the PP and Casado are broken from what he understands as a “suicidal decision” for the popular to despise Vox in the motion of censure on October 22.
His bet happens because the popular leader calls him and then reach post-electoral pacts, according to the strength of each one. From you to you.
Javier Zarzalejos, MEP and one of the few ideologues who advise Casado, which he already did with José María Aznar in the Presidency of the Government and in the FAES, has his diagnosis about what happens to the center right:
“There has been fragmentation, ideological neglect, programmatic emptying after a very tough last government experience and has damaged corruption. And the narrowing of the middle classes due to the financial crisis has affected its sociological base ”.
Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo. The popular exporter in the Congress Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, contributes her vision of the problem: “Married was a hope of mobilization and constitutional regrouping that now languishes in dismissal and fracture. The PP has to solve its double deficit of project and leadership. And that is not achieved either with a headquarters transfer, or with uncritical party patriotism, or with cosmetic signings ”.
Juan Manuel Moreno, Andalusian president, after five predecessors and 37 years of socialism, is committed to renewing the alternative, but warns that the moment is more complex: “Now there are parties to the right and to the left that did not exist before and in addition to making opposition you have to watch your own political space. And competition is good if it is healthy and mobilizes voters. ”
“It happens to the PP that it is rotten and corrupted”, dispatches Jorge Verstrynge, former secretary general of the Fraga AP and now close to Podemos, very critical from his own experience with the financing of parties in this democratic stage.
“And that it was never a center, because it comes from the Franco regime,” he adds. And he predicts: “Married could have had a chance because he is young and it seemed that he did not have mortgages, but he knew what there was and in that sense he has more possibilities of establishing himself as a benchmark for the center-right Abascal, because he has not become impolite and therefore credible”.
Now everyone in the PP and Cs looks at the growth of Vox with suspicion. Vox was in Colón’s photo an extra-parliamentary force and now it is the third group in Congress (52 deputies and 15% of the votes) and is in all the institutions except in the Galician parliament.
Two months after that portrait, the PP de Casado rushed in the general elections of April 2019 to its electoral chasm (66 seats). Rivera was almost on par (57 minutes), but after his blockade of the coalition government with the PSOE and after the repetition of the elections, seven months later, Cs sank with 10 seats and he abandoned politics to look for himself future in the legal profession.
Since then PP and Cs are still looking for his direction and his leadership. And Vox does not set limits. His expectations appear so high that Abascal is getting used to appearing on election nights to reduce the euphoria of his supporters because all the increases seem scarce.
In the PP they still trust its implementation throughout Spain, unlike Cs and Vox. “Our project is not unsuccessful because we already govern in many administrations, there is a team and there is experience. We have to insist on a moderate and centered line, not looking to the right or to the left, with a model like in Galicia, close to its society and capable of winning elections. And forget about the radical nature of Vox, which at most will give 66 seats, and with that it is not governed, “defends one of the members of the current leadership of Casado.
Baron Feijóo. Any allusion to Galicia in the PP is made with caution. Before and now. President Alberto Núñez Feijóo is not just another baron. It’s the baron. Married and he talk and they even stay, as happened this Friday in Madrid.
Before meeting, the Galician leader had sent some of his ambiguously critical messages ahead. He does not like the fact that the past is denied, neither with the change of headquarters or silence before the Bárcenas case, and he wants a winning PP and a united right.
One of the veteran territorial leaders with a good relationship with Feijóo observes him, however, “disappointed, frustrated, and bewildered.” And he adds: “A bit like many of us are, desperate, because we want and need the party to do well, but we see that the national leadership moves improvisedly, in a hurry, with a certain childishness, such as changing headquarters almost secretly, with little reflection ”.
And he adds: “There is a great internal discomfort, more gray mass is needed; around Casado there are people with more ambition than career ”.
As an example of the hyperactivity and urgencies of the team that “aimlessly leads” the current secretary general of the popular, Teodoro García Egea, from various territorial organizations the obsession with renewal is contributed:
“The party is already very renewed, but they They now want to shield themselves organically in case they have to manage the misery after another electoral bump, and between March, April and May they want to hold, without clarifying where we are going, the provincial congresses to reduce the power of the autonomous barons, which was Aznar’s formula to have 17 powerful interlocutors ”.
The secretary of Studies and Programs of the PP, Edurne Uriarte, is not so critical; He refuses to take the Catalan results as a national reference and is committed to focusing more on Galicia, where Feijóo revalidated his absolute majority and Vox did not enter parliament. “The multiparty context is what has changed for the right and the left in recent years,” he adds.
The role of Square in Cs. Carlos Cuadrado, deputy secretary general of Ciudadanos, has been the bad guy of the party for several campaigns, targeted by critics in each debacle for his accumulation of power as the real number two of Inés Arrimadas.
After several days of reflection, he points out two conclusions: “Vox’s fear of the extreme right mobilizes more to the left than ours and we have not managed to make it appear that a real center party exists and is possible that can extract votes from it. social democrats to the left ”.
The executive committee of Cs on Monday lasted five “stormy” hours, in which Arrimadas underwent an internal debate that some of those present described as “dramatic”. There were harsh interventions by the most media leaders: Begoña Villacís, Toni Cantó, Javier Imbroda, Juan Marín, Marta Bosquet, Marta Rivera …
Some head (that of Cuadrado) was asked, “to capitalize more on the current bunkerized structure”, to involve in the design strategic to regional barons (something not foreseen in the statutes of a formation scaled from other examples and that comes from Catalonia) and to share more information and public projection.
Cuadrado promises that many of those internal improvements in Cs will be resumed because they were already planned, such as the annual convention, paralyzed by the pandemic, and launches two notices to the critical sector, which sees a minority:
“We are a centralist party and if you want something else it should be proposed and approved, it is not a question of saying that we are all with Inés [Arrimadas] but that we agree with what Inés decides for better and for worse ”.
Citizens do not want to know anything about Vox and little about the PP now. They claim time to settle down and for their usefulness to be appreciated. Both Arrimadas and his deputy spokesperson in Congress, the State attorney Edmundo Bal, thus emphasized to their executive that they only see each other in Cs.
“I will never in my life be in another party other than this one” or “I am not in politics to win votes but to save lives,” they came to say, according to several witnesses. The leader herself boasted that they call her bankers and big businessmen so that she does not resign, according to sources present in the executive.
The Arrimadas team does not believe in the merger with the PP out of pure pragmatism: “It would not make us win votes to the left of the disenchanted with the PSOE and the PP would lose them among the right-wing voters who hate us and who would go to Vox” . And in the PP they are in other intentions.
Moreno’s recipe, who governs with Cs and the external support of Vox and will be the next popular leader to be examined at the polls in 22 months, is another type of integration: “We must offer an exciting and credible project for our electorate and for part of the center-left that feels disenchanted with the current government and even a victim of its decisions. And it will be necessary to study with great finesse whether to add addition or whether to add subtraction ”.
Aguirre’s advice. Esperanza Aguirre warns: “Casado’s objective cannot be to have one more seat than Pedro Sánchez, he has to return to the discourse of ideas and to have 176 seats, exciting proposals must be made that include conservatives, liberals and even for social democrats who they have been orphans of the PSOE ”.
Zarzalejos, from Brussels, insists: “The renewal effort must be sustained over time and defining that political space very well in the face of the pretense of substitution by the alternative right.”
Former Aznar advisers recall that, when he came to power in Genoa 13, in Spain there were half a dozen regionalist and provincial right-wing parties and that “he regrouped them based on ideology, because politics is ideology.”
And they recommend: “Ciudadanos has already disappeared, we must forget about the pissed off Vox voter and we must build an offer and communicate it well; There are two and a half years ahead and the merger has to be to find the key of what people from the liberal center want and are looking for. Madrid should be the mirror for Spain ”.
Edurne Uriarte argues: “The PP is already a real government alternative. And it is according to the principles and ideals of liberal conservatism and a proven effectiveness in managing the problems of the Spanish. It is necessary to work more on the battle of ideas, a deficit of the right in all western democracies ”.
Casado left sentenced in the 2018 Congress in which he won Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría: “The PP returns. We have to go back to the axis of society so as not to allow them to undo our work. We have to go back to recover our electoral base and to raise our usual hallmarks ”.
Then he declared himself heir to Manuel Fraga, Adolfo Suárez, Antonio Hernández Mancha, José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy. This Tuesday he clarified before his executive that the terrible results in Catalonia were the consequence of a perfect storm outside, unrelated to self-criticism and advocated “releasing ballast.”
Álvarez de Toledo concludes: “Since the PP has given up on recovering the voters who fled to Vox, it must at least galvanize the political center. That requires, first, to know what the center is: neither the weather vane nor the void, but the vibrant demand of the citizen against any collectivism.
And, second, replace the defensive attitude of constitutionalism with a program that reverses the serious decline caused by the separatist process and the management of the pandemic ”.