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November 20, 2018

Spanish economy is booming, but support for Mariano Rajoy shrinks

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Mariano RajoyThe successful performance of Mariano Rajoy is at risk. The prime minister entered the 2015 elections with unemployment of more than 20% after years of punitive austerity and many corrupt charges against him and his party. However, Mariano Rajoy denied the accusations and somehow held on to power.

Now the economy is booming, but the voters give up Mariano Rajoy as never before. Polls suggest that his ruling People’s Party may suffer its worst election result in history if its leader does not revive it before its mandate ends in 2020. Its traditional defensive walls by pensioners and conservatives are beginning to crack.

Weekly demonstrations of the elderly, protesting against the scant increase in state pensions, may have seemed ridiculous, while around Mariano Rajoy, the threat of Catalonia has faded and the unemployment rate has been at its lowest level for almost a decade. But the anger among its key voters suggests a deeper problem. The 63-year-old prime minister may be losing touch with reality. Although often looking strange on the international stage with his weak foreign language skills and no professional experience outside of his country, Rajoy shows an unusual sensation, listening successfully to the Spanish psyche.

During the election campaigns in 2015 and 2016, the critics argued that the prime minister had spent the time while he was visiting retirees and cutting the bands of new transport links. In the evening before June 2016, polls showed less than 29% for the People’s Party. However, it received 33% and Rajoy tightened her grip on the government.

But since the Catalan crisis broke out last fall, the prime minister is in a bad situation.

He was initially challenged by his new enemy, Ciudadanos (Citizens), to cope with the rebellious region. Since taking power over Catalonia in October, he is quite embarrassed by the unsuccessful attempts to extradite the separatist leaders who escaped from Spanish justice.

Mariano Rajoy also missed the growing anger among retirees after giving them an increase of 0.25% in pensions while boasting the revival of the economy.

Another blow to him was the case with Madrid’s regional governor, Cristina Cifuentes, who said the media had received a master’s degree without attending a university or presenting a master’s thesis. Cristina Cifuentes, who had previously been the rising star of his party, failed to stop the charges, denying the allegations and refusing to withdraw, which brought back the bustle of the People’s Party back to the front page of the media.

The Liberals, who last year forced Rajoy to replace the governor of the southern Murcia region for corruption charges, gave the prime minister a one-month ultimatum to persuade Cristina Cifuentes to withdraw. Otherwise, they will stop their support from the Rajoy Minority Government.

Ciudadanos and its young leaders are at the heart of Rajoy’s problems. The party became a national power in 2015, for the first time, offering voters a friendly alternative to the center-right People’s Party. The Catalan crisis has further enveloped it.

While Rajoy tried to find the right answer to the Catalans to avoid a potential kickback, they won the awe of government lawyers, receiving the approval of the opponents of Catalonian independence. At the regional elections in December, the party proved to be the first place, while the People’s Party was almost over.

If the parliamentary elections are held now, Ciudadanos would have won 26% of the vote and the People’s Party (24%), which would be the slightest performance in history.

Rajoy has one year to turn things over, before the thousands of People’s Party’s jobs are at risk of local, regional and European elections next May. If the support of Rahoy see that their leader can not protect their livelihood, the obstacles may turn into a real pogrom.

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