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Post Rajoy Ousted in No-Confidence Vote
Created by John Eipper on 06/02/18 3:51 AM

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Rajoy Ousted in No-Confidence Vote (Carmen Negrin, France, 06/02/18 3:51 am)

JE: I asked Carmen Negrín off-Forum to comment on yesterday's landmark events in Madrid. Carmen's reply:

I would love to be able to give you some insight, but other than hoping for many years for it to happen and being incredulous when it was actually about to happen, I couldn't say much more than what the Spanish press has given us.

The international press ignored Spain, as usual, until the facts were there. The minute the PSOE and Podemos got together, the change became possible. The pact they made with the regional governments to get their votes, eso ¿quién sabe? Federalism? When, a long time ago, Rajoy made his declarations in front of the Tribunal, it was obviously a joke and a waste of time. When he and his troops went to the burial of Rita Barberá and gave her all the honours in spite of her obvious corruption, it was pure provocation but nothing happened. And then came many more provocations, of another nature, with the total mismanagement of the Cataluña matter and still nothing happened.

So when Rajoy's departure became a reality, it almost seemed like another bad joke, too good to be true.
The question is the future. How long will this fragile alliance last? How socialist can a socialist government be with a PP budget? Thus what will be the results of the next elections? All very unstable to say the least.

JE comments:  This is Spain's first-ever parliamentary removal of a PM in the post-Franco era.  On the one hand, the peaceful transition is a sign of a mature democracy.  On the other hand, will Rajoy's departure mark a paradigm shift in Spain's corrupt political culture, or is it merely PSOE's turn to board the Gravy Train?

Thank you, Carmen, for your response, and thanks as well for forwarding this "esquela" (death announcement): 

Popular Party, passed away in Spain on June 1st, 2018, after a lengthy democratic illness.  RIP.

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  • Rajoy Ousted as Spain's PM (Francisco Rodriguez Jimenez, Spain 06/02/18 4:38 AM)
    My thanks to Carmen Negrín for her comments (2 June).

    Finally, corruption has been punished, at least for Spain's Popular Party.

    Regrettably, more cases, in other parties too, have yet to be legally scrutinized. Yet this has been an important message for the scoundrels.

    In spite of its usual sluggish speed, justice works...

    JE comments: WAISers will recall that Francisco Javier Rodríguez Jiménez (U Salamanca) joined the WAIS ranks last summer. Here's his bio:


    Great to hear from you, Francisco!  A political science question:  Why, after Rajoy's removal, did the Prime Ministership pass to the opposition party?  Did the Partido Popular have the chance to find a new leader and attempt to form a government?  How could this happen with the PP in the parliamentary majority?  Did any of the PP diputados vote against their own guy?

    (Looks like I have four questions--or at least one question with four parts.)

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    • If Rajoy Hadn't Been So Overconfident... (Paul Preston, UK 06/02/18 7:31 AM)

      If Rajoy had not been so overconfident, he could have resigned before the vote and his deputy Soraya Saénz de Santamaría would have taken over.

      JE comments:   Thank you, Paul!  So Rajoy must be as unloved (or more) from within his party as outside it.  My understanding is that a no-confidence vote in Spain is called a "cuestión de confianza," which can also translate in popular parlance as "a matter/issue of trust," as among friends or family.  There's something profound about that.

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    • How Did the Parliamentary Process Work to Remove Rajoy? (Francisco Rodriguez Jimenez, Spain 06/03/18 12:05 PM)

      Here are my answers to John E's questions of June 2nd:

      JE:  Why, after Rajoy's removal, did the Prime Ministership pass to the opposition party?

      FRJ:  It was not "after Rajoy's removal."  Spain follows the German system.  To remove the Prime Minister, you have to propose an alternative Prime Minister.  Members of Parliament vote to elect a new Prime Minister to replace the former.  The alternative candidate was proposed by the main opposition party.

      JE: Did the Partido Popular have the chance to find a new leader and attempt to form a government?

      FRJ: This would have been a risky and complicated move. It would involve 1) Rajoy resigning before being removed; 2) The PP proposing a new candidate; and 3) The Parliament favorably voting for the PP candidate.

      JE: How could [the removal of Rajoy] happen with the PP in the parliamentary majority?​

      FRJ: Because the PP did not enjoy an absolute majority of seats. An alternative coalition built by PSOE and Podemos, together with the nationalist parties, was larger than PP and also larger than PP + Cuidadanos.

      JE: Did any of the PP diputados vote against their own guy?

      FRJ: No, they voted unanimously according to part, following the Spanish system.

      JE comments:  This is a very useful civics lesson, especially for those of us who don't live in a parliamentary system.  Washington could never work in such a way, although I see similarities between Rajoy's removal and California's recall referendum of 2003, in which Governor Gray Davis was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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  • Thoughts on Rajoy's Ouster: "Cuestion de Confianza" and "Mocion de Censura" Explained (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 06/03/18 3:57 AM)
    I am currently in Berlin visiting my son. I've just arrived here from Spain, where I followed recent political events.

    I'd like to share my thoughts on the Spanish "Moción de Censura" (motion of censure) that removed President Rajoy.

    As everybody might know, the "Mociòn" is a democratic instrument in most parliamentary regimes, to remove and replace a public servant for political wrongdoing. It is not a political trial where the public official, in this case the president, is accused of corruption, incompetence or illegal acts. Nor is it an impeachment, as it is known in the Anglo-Saxon political system. The result of a "moción" is to lose parliamentary support to continue in power, and the motivations in the Spanish case would be the alleged involvement of President Rajoy in his party's corruption.

    The "Mocion de censura" is also different from the "cuestión de confianza" in which the president submits to the parliament a proposal, for instance on a budget or a project, and asks parliament for its support. It does not necessarily remove the official if not approved.

    In the case of Spanish constitution, another consequence of the Moción is that a new president is elected by the parliament when the motion is approved, generally proposed by the opposition group that submits the motion.

    Having clarified this formal aspect of the Spanish situation, I must add that I am not overjoyed, as Carmen Negrín seems to be, with Rajoy´s removal. I do not feel sympathy for him. He might be incompetent or weak, and perhaps tolerant with corruption, but the way and the timing of his removal will weaken Spanish institutions when they are threatened by nationalistic and populist interests. It will also probably unleash a period of great political instability besides possibly interrupting Spain's current economic growth.

    I do not believe that Pedro Sánchez, the elected president, can manage the competing interests of all the parties involved in the "mociòn"; he lacks experience and talent to achieve success, and his party has less than a quarter of parliamentary seats to support him. I hope I am wrong about this.

    JE comments:  I'm grateful to José Ignacio Soler for clarifying the moción de censura and the cuestión de confianza.  I had mistakenly associated the latter with its Anglo cognate, the no-confidence vote. 

    Nacho, if I may ask, what is the latest from Caracas?  In the wake of Maduro's rigged election victory, things seem to be going from bad to worse.  Will you be remaining in Europe for the time being?

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  • Rajoy's Departure and the Catalonia Crisis; My Meeting with Pedro Sanchez (Paul Preston, UK 06/03/18 7:24 AM)
    I happen to share Carmen Negrín's satisfaction at the removal of Rajoy. Apart from the monumental scale of his party's corruption, to my mind his greatest defect has been the way he has wantonly worsened the Catalan crisis. Of course, I am aware that corruption is not confined to the Partido Popular and I am also aware that other national parties, Ciudadanos and the PSOE, have approved of his claim that his policies were entirely the consequence of the strict application of the law.

    Now is not the time to go into the ramifications of the Spanish constitutional law, but I believe that Rajoy did not have to go down the road of confrontation. Of course, he set off on that road as far back as 2007. Then, he thwarted the implementation of the revised Catalan Statute that had been approved by both the Catalan Parlament and the Spanish Cortes. This he did by an appeal to the extremely conservative constitutional court. Their much delayed judgement in 2010 severely diluted the text of the autonomy statute and was the trigger for a gradual intensification of pro-independence sentiment over the next seven years. Combined with a right-wing anti-Catalan media campaign, that together with Rajoy's response to the ill-judged and certainly illegal referendum of last October brought Spain to the present situation.

    My point is that this was not inevitable. Rajoy could have taken a more statesmanlike line. He could have accepted that Catalans should have the right to express their wishes and stated that Puigdemont could hold a consultation (not a binding referendum which was clearly illegal). If there was sufficient turn-out of at least 75% of the electorate, and the pro-independence vote achieved a majority of 60% or 65%, then dialogue about a revised statute would be back on the agenda.

    Rajoy did not do so either because he wanted the electoral benefit that anti-Catalanism brings, or because the confrontation offered a chance of masking the corruption scandals or because he did not have confidence in the fact that, while a majority of Catalans want more autonomy, they do not necessarily want separation from Spain. Whatever his motives, he has severely damaged Spain.

    So, now Pedro Sánchez faces a series of problems of which the most acute is Catalonia. He spoke at the London School of Economics two weeks ago and presented a view that might be described as "Rajoy-lite." More moderate in tone but still sticking by the letter of the law. At dinner afterwards, he was slightly more emollient but seemed to think that offering to talk about constitutional reform would do the trick. I argued with him that this was just kicking the problem into the long grass since the process would take many years and a reform satisfactory to Catalans would be unlikely to get the necessary two-thirds majority of a national vote.

    So what now? He has said that he is open to dialogue. However, his interlocutor will be Joaquim Torra, the interim president, who, if his press articles over the years are representative of his views, is a hard-line nationalist. The future therefore will depend on whether there can be more intelligence shown in a Sánchez-Torra relationship than there ever was in the Rajoy-Puigdemont one.

    JE comments:  Excellent insight (as always), Paul.  How aware were you a fortnight ago that Sánchez would reach power so soon?  Did you sense that Sánchez anticipated it?

    The big question is whether Catalonia will test Sánchez's resolve quickly, or else extend to him a reconciliatory lluna de mel (honeymoon).

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    • Dining with Pedro Sanchez: Did He Know He Would be PM? (Paul Preston, UK 06/04/18 4:44 AM)
      John E asked about my meeting two weeks ago with Pedro Sánchez, who became Spain's PM on June 1st.

      Sánchez said several times, both publicly and in private, that he intended to be prime minister. This was taken as exactly what any opposition leader would be expected to say.

      No one around the table thought that it would be a couple of weeks later.

      JE comments: Sánchez is tall and handsome, a former semi-pro basketball player.  He is also a professed atheist, as was the last Socialist PM, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.  I wonder:  is there a (non-) religious "litmus test" to head the PSOE?

      Pablo Iglesias of Podemos played a crucial role as kingmaker, by giving his party's support to Sánchez and PSOE in the anti-Rajoy vote.  Paul, do you predict a job for Iglesias in the Sánchez government? 

      On the other hand, Iglesias has come under much criticism for his recent purchase of a luxury home.  Very un-Podemosy.

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    • Spain, Italy's Coalitions are Risky (John Heelan, UK 06/04/18 5:17 AM)

      I would be interested in Paul Preston's view of whether my fear of risks to the governance of Italy and Spain will emerge from eventual coalitions.

      I suspect that the governance problems of Spain and Italy are just starting. Rajoy's vote of no-confidence was aided primarily by the abstention of 82 members of the Cortes plus 1 absentee member. Further, 83 members of minor parties added their combined weights, with a future expectation of reaping political advantage for some of their more extreme policies. (The Tory/LibDem Coalition of 2010 is another in which Clegg and Cable sacrificed their political integrity, as well as the Manifesto promises on which they were elected, for a faint sniff of political power.)

      Coalition governments are notoriously weakened by the kingmaker parties insisting on either getting their way or withholding their support. Italy had 50 or so such governments between 1945 and 2000 (Google Italy's governments since World War II). The Knesset is another example, where the tail of a minor party (SHAS) wags the entire dog. LibDems continue to excuse themselves in the Coalition by claiming "it could have been a lot worse without our influence on policies." The electorate did not believe them in the 2015 election, and decimated their party (from 57 seats to 8 seats in 2015 and losing 0.5% of total votes in 2017).

      JE comments:  Coalition governments are certainly fragile.  From an American perspective, they are also exotic.  You cannot have coalitions when there are only two parties.

      Let's do a WAIS poll.  Who will last longer, Conte or Sánchez?  I'll vote for Sánchez, based on no evidence other than the tendency of Spanish PMs to stay for a long time.  Rajoy's seven years was about average.

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      • Whither New Governments in Spain, Italy? Nobody Knows (Paul Preston, UK 06/05/18 10:22 AM)
        In answer to John Heelan (4 June), the short answer is I don't know because I am an historian not a futurologist. I have been musing on the problems facing the new governments in both Spain and Italy, and I cannot feel confident to either.

        In answer to John Eipper's question about a job for Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, I would be surprised since Pedro Sánchez has said that he wants an exclusively PSOE cabinet.

        JE comments:  Futurology is a fool's game indeed, but it's also irresistible.  My curiosity is whether Iglesias will work with Sánchez, or wait for him to fail in the hope of taking over.  I'm wagering on the latter.  (There's my futurology bit; Paul Preston is far wiser and more prudent.)

        One thing's for certain:  in the "who looks more presidential" game, Sánchez wins hands-down over the scruffy Iglesias.

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        • Presidents: Plastic or Scruffy? (Nigel Jones, UK 06/06/18 4:12 AM)
          I was interested in JE's comment that the new Spanish PM looks more "Presidential" than the "scruffy" Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias.

          My hunch is that the plastic suited look of Pedro Sánchez is distinctly passé in Europe. If you lined up the dwindling band of young EU-supported technocrats with their dark hair and sharp suits, Macron of France, Sánchez in Spain, Tsipras in Greece and until recently Rienzi in Italy, and put them on an ID parade you would be hard put to tell them (or their politics) apart. They are completely interchangeable lookalikes.

          People today are looking for something a little more authentic than these plastic men and their plastic bankster remedies. Even a throwback Marxist relic like Britain's Jeremy Corbyn, with his "scruffy" beard, who dresses like he sleeps under a hedge, has more appeal.

          JE comments:  The US equivalent was (is?) the gruff yet avuncular Bernie Sanders.  Though not handsome, Trump is the most plasticky of all--the eternal outlier.

          Another example:  Mexico's pretty-boy president Enrique Peña Nieto's is set to be replaced by another member of the scruffy club, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.  Elections are July 1st.

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        • Futurologists Kahn, Toffler (John Heelan, UK 06/06/18 4:48 AM)
          In response to Paul Preston (5 June), I tend to trust historians more than futurologists ever since the Herman Kahn/Anthony Weiner book Year Two Thousand, subtitled "A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years," published in 1967, managed to miss the impact of OPEC's oil embargo on world economies only three years later.

          More accurate was Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, which concluded, "the convergence of science, capital and communications was producing such swift change that it was creating an entirely new kind of society." When we observe today's world, it looks like he was right.

          (My only contact with Hermann Kahn was observing the squeaky-voiced academic fall off a conference stage in Germany while gesticulating a point too wildly.)

          JE comments:  The Tofflers' book (Alvin and Heidi) was pretty darn prescient, predicting the "end of permanence," the death of industrial society, renting vs ownership culture, and other central features of today.  Prof. Hilton's textbook América Latina de ayer y de hoy (1970), despite its title, dabbled in futurist speculation.  His batting average was around .500.  For example, he dismissed OPEC as "largely ineffective."  History would very soon prove otherwise.  (Prof. H. did predict a sad economic future for Venezuela, however, due to its over-dependence on oil.)

          Did any futurist foresee the biggest event of the late 20th century--the demise of the Socialist Bloc and the USSR?

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          • What Use is Futurology? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/06/18 1:05 PM)
            While we all agree that predicting the future accurately is extremely difficult and many times impossible, that does not detract from its importance. There are a few wisdoms that we should keep in mind:

            1.Prediction  is a primary objective of science: to understand the Universe so we can predict what might happen next.

            2. Depending on the level of understanding of the important factors and their relationships to one another, our predictions can me more or less accurate and precise. That is why I wrote my book God for Atheists and Scientists; we need as much science as possible, lest humanity keep doing stupid things based on the evil of ignorance.

            3. Another point thus far not mentioned is that predicting the future (futurology) is similar to planning: plans quickly become obsolete, the important thing is the thinking that goes into developing and adjusting them to reality. We seem to focus on whether someone got his/her prediction right or wrong and miss the important points: why was the prediction made? What is the quality of the theoretical model (completeness, evidence and logic supporting the model's proposed relationships)? If reality shows the model is wrong, what should we do (discard or improve it)? Most important, action: what should we do about the test results?

            On this last point, nothing scares me more than after admitting that so and so model was right, people do nothing about it: threat of nuclear destruction, unrepresentative governments, Big Brother society, global warming, a crowded unlivable Earth, etc.

            JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes's point 3 reminds us that economists, actuaries, and funds managers are futurologists, too.  It's not just about flying cars and teleportation and stuff.

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            • Predicting the Greyhound Races (John Heelan, UK 06/07/18 11:29 AM)

              JE commented on 7 June: "Eeconomists, actuaries, and funds managers are futurologists, too.  It's not just about flying cars and teleportation and stuff."

              Bookies, racehorse and greyhound owners are futuroligists as well!

              As an exercise, I once programmed a model to forecast the outcome of greyhound races based on the simplistic principles that greyhounds are very competitive, want to win and that the dog that had a consistently faster time over the course (faithfully recorded in the betting papers) would be more likely to win. However I confess that I did not have enough faith in my program to part with cash on actual bets.

              Over a six-month period, the model broke even, taking betting odds into consideration. However, overall it failed! When I investigated the reasons for that failure, I found one outstanding reason--human nature--and discovered the many ways that owners and track stewards could influence the outcome of a race.

              There were several: feed the dog a cupcake before the race, ensuring to clean its teeth before the veterinary inspection; trap the dog's tail in the back slide of the starting trap; some dogs like to run wide on bends, so put a wide runner in an inside trap so when the six dogs explode from the traps, the wide runner runs across the paths of the other dogs causing collisions; the steward giving the dog's testicles a painful squeeze while pretending to insert it into the trap; an unscrupulous owner entering a bitch recently in heat (i.e. oestrus) that would distract the other dogs; influence the odds by running dogs in unlicensed stadia (so-called "flapping tracks" by the cognoscenti in my family).

              As with most models, once humans are involved, the model suffers.

              JE comments:  "Past dog performance is no guarantee of future results."  John, does the cupcake slow the dog down or speed him/her up?

              (John Heelan's list of tricks confirms what I've read about the treatment of racing greyhounds.  It's a cruel sport.  Not as bad as dog fighting, but close.)

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    • Rajoy's Handling of Catalonia Crisis (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 06/04/18 7:38 AM)
      With all my respect I must disagree with Paul Preston's comments (3 June) regarding Rajoy's failures on the Catalonia crisis.

      I do agree with Paul that Rajoy did not do a good job of managing the crisis, but I disagree that the government could implement a referendum for Catalonians to express themselves, at least not according to the current Spanish constitution.

      As discussed many times in the past on WAIS, it is not possible not to "go into the ramifications of the Spanish constitutional law." In fact the constitution clearly states that the territorial integrity of Spain, as a crucial matter of national sovereignty, should only be decided by the entire Spanish population and not only by part of it.

      The "derecho a decidir" (right to decide) alleged by nationalist parties for secession, is not a legal or universal concept established in any worldwide body of law, except in the UN's decisions about regions under colonization.

      In consequence the solution proposed by Paul, in my humble opinion, would also be unconstitutional, and if implemented by the government it would be most likely be immediately denounced by the opposition and prosecuted by the Constitutional court of law.

      The only solution to admit this option would be constitutional reform, and in this case such a reform would make the Spanish constitution the only one in the world that admits the possibility of territorial disintegration. Another option is to implement a national referendum on the matter, in which the regional Catalonia outcome would be considered by itself, but this would open up other social, political and economic problems.

      For instance, let us assume such a consultation is legally feasible, a referendum to express the "derecho a decidir" for Catalonians, even with Paul's formula of 75% or 65% (why not 80% or 90% of participation, and a majority of 90%?). Let us also assume that its outcome is negative. In this case it will be of little help to permanently solve the problem, because nobody will guarantee that in a few years it will not again be demanded by a group of Catalonian radicals, or that an endless chain of plesbiscites in some other regions of Spain will not be requested following the same jurisdictional arguments, one after another, making it very hard or impossible to deal with such troublesome political scenarios until the final disintegration of the country.

      In case the outcome scenario is in favor for independence, tragic social problems would arise. What would it be the situation with a feasible "great minority" of Catalonians who wanted to remain Spaniards? Would they be obliged to renounce their nationality, or suddenly to become foreigners in their own country? Or in the extreme case, would they would be expelled from Catalonia?  These are not easy social questions to resolve when taking the risk of allowing these kinds of referendums.

      I believe Pedro Sánchez is well aware of these facts, or at least his party is. However, he is an opportunist politician. He lost the two last national elections, with the worst result ever for his party. He took advantage of the current situation to become president, and I am afraid his future acts will be compromised by his minority parliamentary support and his incompetence and lack of experience.

      One last comment on my previous post on the matter. John E, with his usual great common sense, edited one of my statements. He wrote, "the motivations (of the Motion of censure) in the Spanish case would be the alleged involvement of President Rajoy in his party's corruption." Actually I wrote, "the motivations in the Spanish case would be the alleged political responsibility of President Rajoy regarding corruption in his party." The distinction is important, I believe, and correct me if I am wrong please. "Political responsibility" is not the same as "involved in his party's corruption." In Spain political responsibility is the obligation that a public servant has for using efficiently and ethically his delegated powers. In the case of the motion against Rajoy, the allegations were not for corruption or for being involved in his party´s corruption. The president has never been accused of it, but for not acting decisively against it.

      JE comments: Perhaps the best word would be negligence? Failed oversight? "Responsibility" carries a stronger connotation of guilt in Spanish than in English, and I over-corrected in my edit. Sorry about that, José Ignacio.

      Paul Preston clearly stated that an independence referendum would be constitutionally illegal. He called instead for a "consultation" of the electorate, which could be used as a basis for further talks between Madrid and Barcelona.

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