Will Spain Survive Sánchez’s Controversial Deal?

November 24, 2023 Topic: Spanish Politics Region: Western Europe Tags: SpainDemocracyCataloniaRule Of LawVox

Will Spain Survive Sánchez’s Controversial Deal?

Seeking to hold onto power, the country’s prime minister is willing to grant amnesty to regional separatists accused of violating the law and the nation’s Constitution.

Yet his position is hardly secure: his grip on power depends entirely on support from political separatist parties not just from Catalonia but also from Galicia, the Basque Country, and the Canary Islands. The PP, VOX, and many elements of the political center are still out in force in protest. A large strike by the trade union Solidarity is expected on November 24. Legal changes to the amnesty deal may bring the whole thing crashing down. Spain’s political environment has shifted dramatically, and a now firmly charged political Right may swing back with force.

More broadly, though, the amnesty deal highlights a recent worrying trend in European politics: a tendency to weaken the rule of law for the sake of keeping the hard Right out of power. Sánchez has argued that the deal will prevent another election, thereby preventing a coalition government composed of PP and VOX. In Germany, politicians have talked openly about banning the hard Right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), even though the party is the second largest in the country, with 21 percent polling in favor. Other examples abound.

In an era of political reaction, where the specter of populist forces, including those on the Right, looms over the European landscape, it is understandable many in the center and on the Left feel obligated to act. Yet, in the sacred arena of democracy, the containment of such forces must adhere strictly to the rule of law. The sanctity and strength of a democratic system lie in its unyielding commitment to the will of the electorate, expressed unequivocally at the ballot box. Resorting to manipulations that stretch the legal fabric or infringe upon the hallowed separation of powers is a dangerous game. Such actions, far from safeguarding democracy, weaken it, serving not only to embolden its adversaries afield but also to prove correct the populist critique that established political elites are happy to ignore democratic principles and the rule of law when these aren’t in their favor.

Carlos Roa is a Visiting Fellow at the Danube Institute and a contributing editor for The National Interest. He is a former executive editor of the publication.

Image: Shutterstock.com.