THE BLOG

Spain Is Living Its Own Version Of 'Groundhog Day'

MADRID, Spain -- The political situation in Spain has been a muddled mess since December 20, when the last round of the general elections left no clear majority leadership atop the government. It is as if the words spoken by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on February 1, 2011, had resurfaced to haunt the whole country: I am living "in a mess," he said at the time. Five years later, the famously boring prime minister appears prophetic.

It's easy to trace the cause of this political paralysis. There is no clear government because Spaniards no longer want big victories. They advocate for coalitions among parties, for dialogue and consensus. However, that clear message of citizenship has not reached Spain's political class. Politicians are still anxious about associations with other groups. Six months ago, none of the four main political parties -- the conservative PP, the socialist PSOE, the center-right, Ciudadanos and the populist left-wing Podemos -- had enough votes to govern by themselves.

A coalition, therefore, was no longer something to strive for; it was a necessity. This was an unprecedented event in Spanish politics, which in almost 40 years of democracy has never had a coalition government. Since 20-D, politicians began to gesture to the gallery, organizing press conference after press conference. They blamed each other publicly, while sending secret love letters, aimed at finding love at the last moment.

Spanish people are drained. It feels like Spain is the main character in the movie Groundhog Day: Everything starts fresh with each new round of elections.

It was all useless. There was a faint glimmer of hope when Ciudadanos and PSOE reached an agreement. But even that eventually vanished when socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, upon request from King Felipe VI, tried to form a new government, but failed to rally the support he needed.

Spanish people are drained. It feels like Spain is the main character in the movie Groundhog Day: Everything starts fresh with each new round of elections. Another electoral campaign, the same faces, the same promises, the same politicians hoarding minutes, even hours, on TV stations. One massive yawn.

In the context of all this monotony, any small change is significant. That's why people have been excited about the coming together of the two main leftist parties, Podemos and Izquierda Unida, which together will run on the same list, under the name Unidos Podemos.

In reaction to this marriage of convenience, people have been repeating the following word: Sorpasso, believing that Podemos will surpass the Socialists in both votes and seats.

Such a sorpasso would be a historic blow for the PSOE, the party that has governed for the greatest number of years in a democratic Spain. Polls suggest that scenario is likely: the socialists are coming out in third place, behind the PP and Unidos Podemos. Such an outcome would result, almost certainly, in the immediate departure of party leader Pedro Sanchez.

spain elections debate

Unidos Podemos would benefit the most from the potential collapse of PSOE. Led by Pablo Iglesias, Unidos Podemos was founded with the aim of unifying Spain's left-wing parties. Two years later, it has a good chance of becoming the main opposition party -- or perhaps even the ruling party.

To get this far, Iglesias has undertaken an amazing journey, and let go of many of his old ideas in the process. Once a communist who advocated for leaving the EU, Iglesias now defines himself as a "social-democrat" who has "matured."

"I am proud to have been a young communist, but when you aspire to be president of a country like Spain, you have to let go of certain provocative attitudes," he said Sunday night in a television interview.

The truth is that Podemos has been transforming before our eyes. Its strongest critics claim it is the devil's party -- they argue that its rise to power would entail the nationalization of major Spanish corporations, control over the media and the judiciary, the loss of international significance (except in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), the collapse of the economy, and the abuse of the upper classes.

In other words, Spain would become hell on earth, according to these critics.

Podemos' supporters have a different view. They consider Podemos to be the party that can break apart the PP-PSOE bipartisanship, and end corruption and inequality. They also believe that it would be best-equipped to defend the Welfare State.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, there is Mariano Rajoy. He won the most amount of votes in the elections, but was unable to govern because he could neither receive a majority of votes nor find anyone willing to make a pact with him. Even Ciudadanos, the party that is closest to the PP, has repeatedly stated that they would be willing to reach a government agreement with the party as long as Rajoy were to exit. Therefore, the current president -- who almost never changes his mind -- has consistently advocated for a grand coalition between the PP and PSOE. He considers it to be the only "sensible" option. In other words, he has been screaming in a vacuum. Rajoy is aware that he is alone in his approach and that is why in this election campaign, he has stepped out onto the streets and decided to grant interviews to the media -- an uncharacteristic move for the famously reserved politician. It is clear that he wants to appear "approachable" and to collect every last vote he can.

Rajoy has also bred panic of late by announcing that he does not rule out a third election. That would be worse than "living in a mess." It would be unbearable.

Guillermo Rodriguez is Editor in Chief of HuffPost Spain.