Is Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez enjoying a New Year’s Day glass of cava as he mulls calling an early General Election in 2022?
The leader of the coalition PSOE-Unides Podem government has squeezed through two budgets in Congress by wheeling and dealing with small regional parties.
It’s something that he doesn’t really want to do again come the autumn.
The thought that a small Catalan party might have torpedoed his plans simply because they wanted streamers like Netflix to produce more Catalan language material may lead Sanchez to review his options.
By the way, ‘The Crown’ or ‘Squid Game’ dubbed into Catalan sound like intriguing prospects!
Sanchez doesn’t have to go to the country before December 2023 but there’s always an advantage to hold a poll on your own terms, rather than waiting until the last minute.
You never know what might happen- something I’m convinced cost Gordon Brown his job back in 2010 when he should have gone to the electorate in 2007, just before the banking crisis hit.
If circumstances look good and there’s even the chance of getting say 20 or more PSOE delegates into Congress, then Pedro Sanchez might go for it, say this autumn.
Despite the COVID pandemic, Sanchez is one of the few Western European leaders not to see his or his party’s poll numbers slump.
There’s no Boris Johnson-style collapse here and no questions being asked about a PSOE leader, who resigned back in October 2016 when in opposition to a minority Partido Popular(PP) Mariano Rajoy-led government.
Remember that a lot of the party hierarchy wanted Sanchez out and that duly happened at a party assembly when Sanchez issued a ‘back me or sack me’ challenge.
After a ten hour bad-tempered meeting, he lost the vote and stood down.
Sanchez then immediately put himself forward for re-election and beat hot favourite, Andalucia’s Susana Diez to regain the top PSOE position.
It was a gutsy play from Sanchez who over five years later has not looked back.
The current opinion poll numbers from the normally-reliable Centro de Investigaciones(CIS) are astonishing in their sheer consistency.
Give or take a percentage point here and there, the CIS surveys in the last 18 months keep predicting an almost identical result to the second election of 2019.
For a ruling government and Prime Minister not to get some kind of a COVID backlash is no mean achievement.
That of course may well be as much a view on the main PP opposition as anything else.
Despite not having a Congress majority, the Sanchez government has pushed through or is pushing through a whole range of radical reforms.
That includes labour law, housing rule changes, animal welfare, euthanasia legalisation, an increased minimum wage and the repeal of the controversial ‘gag-law’ plus plans to ban prostituion.
Egged on by his junior partners, Unides Podem, Sanchez has been the only EU leader to slash tax on electricity bills to buffer consumers against massive rises- you can hear the screaming in the UK!
He’s presided over one of the world’s best COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs, where despite record virus infections, hospitalisations and deaths are well down on levels seen this time last year.
As many countries appear to be or have lurched to the right, Sanchez has held his ground and can perhaps sense an electoral opportunity.
Despite the worst consumer inflation rate in December for almost 30 years, experts are predicting it will fall over the next few months.
New variants not withstanding, the worst of COVID might be over(but we did say that in the summer).
EU recovery fund money will continue to pour in for new ‘green-led’ projects like electric car manufacturing.
Employment levels are vastly higher compared to the Rajoy ‘austerity’ years.
If some kind of ‘feel-good’ or perhaps ‘feel-better’ hits Spain in 2022, coupled with improved PSOE poll ratings, then Sanchez might go for an autumn date with the electorate.
The ‘worst-case’ scenario of a status quo result gives him some kind of insurance policy.
He knows that whatever they say, most of the small regional parties in Congress would rather than do business with him, than with a PP-Vox administration.