Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s appearance Wednesday in Madrid before the Congress of Deputies is far from what he surely imagined in early January, when he was in the midst of deep political fragmentation with everyone against each other and against him.
This is how the environment could be described in which, tying up support from rivals such as the left-wing Podemos party and independence parties, he finally arrived at the prime minister’s residence in La Moncloa.
Some 100 days have passed since then, a few of them free from the word ‘coronavirus’.
In fact, in the last 40 days, the government declared a state of emergency over the brutal advance of the disease, which places the country as the second in the world with more infections and deaths, which has caused the collapse of its health system, confined citizens, empty streets and closed businesses.
Now, the debates around Catalonia and the dialogue table with Catalan President Quim Torra, the protests by farmers over plummeting incomes, the pre-campaigns of the Basque Country and Galicia and euthanasia are things from the past when it became clear that the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 for the country would be so serious and lasting that a whole generation of Spanish youth depend on Sanchez's actions at the moment, watching with amazement from their windows an economy that is crumbling.
In fact, the International Monetary Fund has recently projected an 8% drop in the country's GDP and an outbreak of unemployment that will reach 20.8%. In a similar tone, the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations foresees that the number of unemployed will be more than half a million people.
"We are going to a very hard recession worldwide. Europe is the most affected area in the world, and Spain is one of the most affected countries," affirmed Jose Carlos Diez, an economist at the University of Alcala, for whom the pandemic and confinement have conditioned Sanchez's first 100 days in a definitive way.
"The government has had a plan and an agreement since the investiture and we have entered another scenario, so it makes more sense to analyze how this crisis is being managed," he explained.
However, it is inevitable to find a close link between the decisions of the prime minister before and after the outbreak. His efforts to force the formation of a government with a mix of leftist, independence and nationalist parties led him, for example, to facilitate the entry of Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias to the executive branch, internally creating a kind of dual structure that some perceive as a double government.
Today, this structure exercises opposition to Sanchez's own -- key records within the cabinet and manifests a constant demand for “paternity” of the social policies contained in that account, such as the increase in salary [minimum wage] to 950 euros per month which was built to forge the image of the coalition.
Until today, in a video published on social media, Sanchez has highlighted that his government has been "feminist, ecologist, pro-European and social,” priorities that must continue to fit into the new context proposed by COVID-19.
The president that Spain needs?
This is how journalist David Jimenez titled his opinion column on Jan. 8 in The New York Times, in which he insisted, almost premonitory, on questioning whether Prime Minister Sanchez, who is officially the President of the Government of Spain, would be the required leader in these times. In January, the virus was not yet a chaos factor for Spain, but the question remains relevant.
Now that the country's priorities are being re-thought, the quality of Sanchez's leadership has been put to the test, not only for the management of the health response, which has been harshly criticized by his opponents, especially by Pablo Casado of the Popular Party, but also because of what is expected of the government in economic matters.
"The management is not being adequate. They failed in the diagnosis. They thought that this was going to be a parenthesis and a short two-month break," affirmed Jose Carlos Diez.
For Diez, the high level of public debt in Spain, which had already reached 95.8% of the GDP before the pandemic, according to the Bank of Spain -- is currently a significant risk in view of the enormous spending that is looming this year and in 2021.
"The government has to focus, leave its ideological part and its program ideas and give a realistic message to the Spanish," suggested Diez.
"They have said that they will do everything that is necessary, and well, we will do everything that we can finance and pay. That is a much more prudent message," he pointed out.
Now that the discussions are confined to the pandemic, although fueled by the same differences as always, they have a greater tone of economic urgency, which leaves little space for the profound discrepancies and theatricality that has surrounded Sanchez's relationship with other political leaders.
In fact, he has recently proposed some pacts for economic and social reconstruction after COVID-19 which, despite the attacks, he defended again on Wednesday and which will depend not only on his will but on that of his allies and opponents.
With the imposition that history has made of new priorities, examining the management of the Spanish leader in retrospect has become less relevant than observing what he will do in the future.
"The time is short. The cravings grow and the hopes decrease," wrote Cervantes.
Spain knows it, and possibly Sanchez does too.
*Maria Paula Trivino contributed to this storyAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.