Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) face one of the most complex representations of their political careers this Wednesday. They are irreconcilable adversaries, but at ten o’clock in the morning they will not have to draw a smile when they find themselves again with a lot of light but without stenographers. Both political leaders will meet in a discreet room of the Congress of Deputies, neutral ground for the main appointment of the round of contacts that the conservative leader has launched as a candidate for an investiture that is, in principle, doomed to failure.
Sánchez and Feijóo have demonstrated in the last 15 months ample conditions for disagreement. The dialogue between those who presume to want to “repeal sanchismo” and those who accuse their adversary of “insolvency or bad faith” seems impossible. And yet, the PSOE leader accepted Feijóo’s invitation for an investiture, despite the fact that his party considers it a “waste of time.”
The acting president wanted to show respect for this procedure, knowing the uselessness of the appointment. And the popular candidate for the investiture asked Sánchez for an interview to show that he is trying to reach a dialogue and seek an agreement.
What follows summarizes some of the main clashes between the two political leaders in recent months.
April 2022. The first meeting has already gone wrong. President Pedro Sánchez congratulated Alberto Núñez Feijóo when on April 2, 2022 he was elected president of the PP by an overwhelming majority. 98.3% of the delegates supported him to replace Pablo Casado, beheaded for denouncing the alleged corruption of the Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso.
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Sánchez then dedicated a tweet of good intentions to the new leader of the PP: “In these complex times, working with unity and responsibility for the common good of citizens must be a priority for all of us.”
Congratulations to @FeijooGalicia on his election as president of the Popular Party.
In these complex times, working with unity and responsibility for the common good of citizens must be a priority for all of us.
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) April 2, 2022
The following was a meeting at the Palacio de la Moncloa, where Sánchez and Feijóo showed the essence of a dialogue of the deaf. The president gave Feijóo some duties that the conservative formation had not been able to approve in the previous three years. He offered him State pacts on 11 matters and drew a deadline, June 2022, to renew the Judiciary — three years blocked by Pablo Casado’s PP. Feijóo also brought proposals on tax cuts and other economic measures against the crisis that Sánchez ignored.
The Galician leader did not hide his disappointment on leaving that first date: “I have no good news for the family economy, nor for workers, nor for medium and low incomes, nor for companies.” Feijóo regretted that the president will not accept any of his proposals and despite the fact that he announced that they would negotiate the renewal of the Judiciary, that commitment ended in the same impasse where he was.
A few months later, Feijóo drew a conclusion about Sánchez: “The discrediting of the institutions had not happened before; Sánchez occupies them with a self-confidence that is difficult to overcome ”, he declared in mid-August in the first and only interview granted to EL PAÍS during his entire term. Feijóo was referring to the president’s appointments to the State Attorney General’s Office (his former Minister of Justice) or to the CIS (a veteran socialist militant). In that same interview, Feijóo disqualified Sánchez for agreeing with Bildu, a party that had not denounced the almost 1,000 ETA murders.
October 2022. Second and last meeting by force. An ephemeral agreement broken by telephone. The second meeting between Sánchez and Feijóo was forced by the blockade that Feijóo’s PP maintained on the renewal of the Government of the judges. The president of the Council of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court, Carlos Lesmes, resigned in protest at the lack of agreement between the political parties. That movement forced Sánchez to negotiate a meeting with Feijóo to resolve the crisis. They spoke for a few days, names and proposals were exchanged and the teams of both seemed willing to solve the serious problem of the lack of renewal of the Government of the judges. But Feijóo broke off the dialogue by phone when he confirmed with Sánchez that the Penal Code was going to be reformed to repeal the crime of sedition. The conservative leader accused Sánchez of treason, and the Prime Minister denounced Feijóo for breaching the Constitution.
Parliamentary debates, major insults. The Senate debates aggravated the relationship between the two leaders in the first months of 2023. In one of those debates, Feijóo accused Sánchez of being “more generous with the executioners (of ETA) than with the victims (of terrorism).” The president suggested that the PP never wanted the end of ETA and recalled the infamy of the 11-M conspiracy theory aired by conservative leaders against the PSOE.
Sánchez reminded Feijóo of his flirtations with the drug trafficker Marcial Dorado, and the PP leader accused the acting president of the bankruptcy of Cajamadrid because for years he was a member of the General Assembly, a body without any management responsibility. Both accused each other during the electoral campaign of lying to the citizens and continue to do so afterwards, when the polls have left a parliament so fragmented that the formation of a government threatens to be the most difficult exercise of the recent democratic stage.
Sánchez and Feijóo were not able to seal an important agreement in 15 months of institutional relationship. Today they return to what is expected to be a new dialogue of the deaf doomed to failure.
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