With the legislature having just begun, the Government came face to face with the parliamentary reality that threatens to grip it for the duration of this mandate. The three strategic decrees with packages of economic, labor measures and legislative commitments with Brussels landed this Wednesday before the Plenary Session of the Congress of Deputies without the guaranteed support of Junts and Podemos, two of the essential allies for the Executive in any vote.
After an agonizing negotiation in which at the last minute it had to once again assume economic and competency compensation to Catalonia due to the demands of Junts, the PSOE managed to avoid the setback and carry out in extremis the anti-crisis plan and the so-called omnibus decree. The vote against Podemos, however, did definitively condemn the unemployment benefit reform that Yolanda Díaz defended to its repeal.
Like so many other times under the mandate of Pedro Sánchez, this Wednesday’s pyrrhic parliamentary victory did not lack intrigue. After hours of information closure after the end of the telematic voting period by Junts and the PSOE, the president of Congress announced that the result showed a tie of 171 votes in the anti-crisis decree, in addition to the approval of the omnibus and the repeal of unemployment benefits. The vote had to be repeated to break the tie, this time by personal appeal at the request of the PP, due to an error by Sumar deputy Gerardo Pisarello.
For these two texts to be approved, it was necessary to move Carles Puigdemont’s supporters from their announced vote against to abstention. Something that the PSOE achieved after hours of negotiation at the highest level in parallel to the development of the Plenary and in exchange for new concessions to the Catalan independentists. Specifically, the transfer to Catalonia of powers in immigration matters – without details of what it covers –, the suppression of the reform of the civil procedure law, the reduction of VAT on oil to 0%, the State assuming the amount total sales and discounts on public transport or the recognition of Catalan historical rights in terms of local regime.
“I am very satisfied, I believe that today is a great day for the social majority of this country,” said Pedro Sánchez after the final vote that was held in the Senate chamber for the works undertaken during the month of January in the Lower House. . Questioned by journalists about the difficulties in carrying out the first relevant vote of the legislature, the President of the Government tried to downplay this situation. “The legislature and the multi-party democracy in which we are present have these hazards, we have to work a lot. We are a humble, dialoguing government, with the capacity for agreement. I said it during the elections and I maintain it: to revalue pensions we are going to look for votes even under the stones,” he claimed.
Before, the parliamentary spokesperson for Junts, Míriam Nogueras, who had expressed her group’s rejection during her speech from the rostrum, also came out to celebrate the achievements won from the PSOE. “We have always made our convictions very clear and now they are good for Junts. The citizens of Catalonia must win and the powers we have must be respected,” she said.
The journalists also asked Pedro Sánchez about the rejection of Podemos, which, unlike Junts, did maintain its rejection until the end and overthrew with its five votes against the unemployment benefit reform presented by the Ministry of Labor. A measure that Sánchez promised to recover. “It was a decree that proposed an increase in unemployment benefit coverage for many unemployed people in our country who today have effectively seen how this right has not been validated. But I want to convey to you the guarantee that the government of Spain is going to once again propose to the Cortes Generales a measure that seems fair and necessary to us.”
The wounds between Sumar and Podemos frustrate the negotiations
With the Junts movement, the only party that broke away from the investiture bloc in this Wednesday’s votes was Podemos. Those of Ione Belarra took their fight with the Government and, specifically, with the Ministry of Labor to the limit in negotiations that show the total rupture between that party and Yolanda Díaz’s team.
The package agreed upon within the Government was very broad: it increased the amount from 480 to 570 euros per month, eliminated the month of waiting between the benefit and the subsidy, allowed the possibility of combining a job and collecting part of the subsidy and It protected people that it did not previously cover, such as those under 45 years of age without family responsibilities and possible agricultural workers, among other measures.
But in the days after the announcement, Podemos began to publicly express its objections to a specific part of that reform that affected those over 52 years of age and that they considered a “cut” in that benefit because it progressively lowers the retirement contribution base for that sector. Díaz’s team defends that when the contribution for those over 52 was raised to 125%, it was done to compensate for the SMI that existed before 2018. Now that this minimum wage is double due to the successive increases approved by the progressive Government, In the case of maintaining that 125% contribution, the situation arose that there are people who contribute more while receiving the subsidy than others who are working.
In Podemos they complain that they were never given a specific commitment before Wednesday to withdraw that part of the decree and that that is why they have remained in the ‘no’ until the vote. A few minutes before the vote, Podemos informed the Secretary of State of Labor, Joaquín Pérez Rey, with whom they had maintained dialogue these days, that they would reject the decree. Sources from the second vice presidency assure that at that time a specific commitment was conveyed to them to accept the amendment and work on it together, even if this modification could generate a “mismatch” in the labor market. Belarra’s team confirms that they received that communication from Labor but that at that point in the negotiation they only accepted a written text that they could approve. According to Díaz’s team, the only response to the offer and the appointment in a Senate room to negotiate was silence.
Shortly after, the leader of Podemos announced in statements her vote against the decree. “Unfortunately, the Government has not committed to withdrawing the cut in the pensions of people who receive the subsidy for those over 52 years of age and, therefore, we will not vote in favor,” said Belarra.
“We have been offering them the same thing as the others since last Friday, which is to convert this decree into a bill. We have offered them to present amendments and that is why it is incomprehensible,” Díaz argued a little later in an interview on Onda Cero. “It is extremely irresponsible,” he lamented.