The surveys published at the beginning of the year show that the institutional crisis derived from the renewal of the Constitutional Court has taken its toll on the PSOE. The latest polls show a clear rise in the PP, in a week in which those who used to lead the bipartisanship in Spain were preparing their campaign teams for the regional and municipal elections, without losing sight of the national ones at the end of the year. However, while the ‘populares’ of Alberto Núñez Feijóo opted for the cultural battle, Pedro Sánchez’s team seeks to make a profit from the economic framework, traditionally associated with the right, with the aim of convincing or mobilizing undecided voters and thus This was evidenced this Saturday by the President of the Government at the start of the pre-campaign.
“One of the main obsessions of the Government and of Sánchez, in particular, has been to break with the idea that the left does not know how to fight a crisis,” interprets the political scientist Estefanía Molina. “For an entire generation, the idea remained that the left got out of the way when a great crisis had to be managed (2008-2011). When Sánchez arrived at Moncloa, he always had that fear,” she observes. This had not happened in the first years of the current democracy, when Felipe González faced several moments of recession, but the idea had ended up being established in the voters, points out the political analyst. “The right has also lived a lot from this dogma. The left was moving away and they managed the crisis, but it seems that it has ceased to be that way,” she assesses.
Estefanía Molina points out that the current Executive moves in a totally different current in the European sphere, in which, in the face of the austerity of those years, a social democracy prevails that, beyond giving aid to the most vulnerable groups, understands the State investment as a future bet for economic growth. Something that has been evidenced with the launch of the Next Generation funds to respond to the pandemic.
“This is important, the right has tried to exploit a framework in which the left only gives aid, which some in a very contemptuous way have come to call paguitas,” he maintains. The population is aware that those most in need are being helped, but the middle class, which has been impoverished, needs to feel that the left can not only respond to the crisis, but also generate economic growth, she says.
Achievements in Europe are not sold in votes
Along the same lines, the political scientist Eduardo Bayón values that the current government’s management of the economic situation has nothing to do with what was carried out by the Council of Ministers of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “It was a communication and enormous strategic failure, which wore down the Government in the first phase of the legislature, although the European situation has nothing to do with it either.” The expert in political communication considers that the Executive has improved in recent months in transferring its achievements to the citizenry. However, he believes that it is difficult for major milestones such as the gas cap to have an impact in electoral terms. “In most cases it will not be a reason to vote for the PSOE or Sánchez,” he considers.
On the contrary, if you understand that the economic situation, which is not as bad as might be expected from the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, could favor the socialist wing of the government. “In the 2008 crisis there was excessive punishment of the government parties, it was something that occurred throughout Europe. Now, at least for the moment, voters opt for a certain stability and continuity,” he recalls. “We will have to see what happens in Spain, but I think that within that reading the presidential profile of Sánchez, as a statesman, in the face of an economic and social situation that is not getting worse, could make 2023 a very long year for Feijóo”.
Electoral campaign focused on the economic
The director of the magazine of the Political Communication Association (ACOP), Verónica Crespo, has no doubts that the focus of the 2023 electoral campaign will be economic. “A political party must respond to the needs and concerns of citizens in an electoral campaign, talk about what worries people and now, the economy is the issue that worries Spaniards the most,” he says, an impression that they maintain the latest CIS polls. As an example, he points out that the PSOE has hired the consultant who worked on Juanma Moreno’s last campaign and jokingly, imagines that upon his arrival in Ferraz he paraphrased Bill Clinton when in 1992 he said “it’s the economy, stupid” ( it’s the economy, stupid).
For this reason, he does not believe that the PP will renounce the economic framework, no matter how hard the PSOE tries to step on it in this field. “I think there is a lot of game left to play, five months for some regional and municipal elections, which in practice will be the first round of the national ones, which we will vote on at the end of the year.” Verónica points out that the Popular Party is comfortable in the economic debate and will maintain it, although it accompanies it with matters related to the “unity and defense of Spain.”
“The right is aware that the economy is not only numbers, but moods,” says Estefanía Molina, at the same time that she refers to the differences between the individual economic situation and the individual one that citizens reflect in each survey of the CIS. “The right knows that if it spurs the psychological climate of economic malaise and pessimism it demobilizes the left voter, and it can even take part of that electorate, he points out. Therefore, he understands that it makes sense that the left has entered a framework that traditionally The opposing bench has been assigned to combat the ideas that have been dragging on since the previous crisis and to try to prevent their voters from demobilizing.
Taxes as an economic battle
The director of the political communication consultancy Ideus3 Estrategia, Ana Salazar, emphasizes that despite the fact that it is a framework attributed to the right, the economic discursive axis is also framed in the left since the difference between both poles of the spectrum is marked precisely by how the economy is managed, if it is put at the service of equality or a reduction. “The PSOE has to differentiate itself from the right with an economic discourse and I think that this is the move, the government’s strategy,” she says. Something that it has already begun to do with the approval of taxes on energy, banking and great fortunes. “This line has guarantees of success, because it is promoted by the EU, but it could fail if inflation picks up or controls on the debt return.”
Estefanía Molina exemplifies this paradigm shift on the left and specifically, in the socialist space, in abandoning the mantra that lowering taxes is nevertheless bad. The political scientist gives as an example the package of progressive reductions promoted by Ximo Puig in the Valencian Community, compared to the model of Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Madrid, in which those who have the most benefit the most. “The government was wrong at the beginning, but the barons have corrected it. The left has replaced the framework that lowering taxes is negative, with the idea that it is bad depending on who you lower them to.”
On the other hand, if taxation is not progressive, there is a discontented middle-class citizen that the most populist right can convince that the left “wants to loot them.” Estefanía observes that the PP has become accustomed to this and especially Ayuso, who has set the reins on the center-right party’s discourse. Therefore, in the face of an economy that exceeds the expectations of months ago thanks to the policies that the coalition government has implemented, she diverts the focus and speaks of an illegitimate Executive or of walking towards a pseudo dictatorship. The political scientist interprets that the Government is managing to keep up with the managerial profile with which Feijóo arrived in Madrid. However, according to the latest polls, the ‘popular’ strategy is being more fruitful.