When Spain’s 13-week coronavirus state of emergency finishes today, it will bring an end to one of the most fraught, frustrating and claustrophobic chapters in the country’s recent history – and nowhere more so than in the national parliament.
Opposition parties in many countries have declared truces in the face of a national and international health emergency. But in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies, there has been neither consensus nor quarter, and the habitual insults and accusations have flown with renewed vigour and venom.
As the pandemic has swept across the country, infecting more than 245,000 people and hobbling the economy, Spaniards have been treated to an even bloodier and more breathless version of the usual Punch and Judy politics.
The six extensions of the state of emergency have been hard won by prime minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition and have forced the government into pragmatic alliances with both Catalan pro-independence MPs and Basque nationalists. While Sánchez has claimed, perhaps a little disingenuously, that he has “no enemy but the virus”, his opponents have begged to differ – and vociferously so.
Pablo Casado, leader of the People’s party, has repeatedly accused the PM of trying to hide the human cost of the pandemic and said he does not deserve the support of the opposition. “Your arrogance, your lies and your ineffectiveness are an explosive combination for Spain,” Casado said in April.
Meanwhile the far-right Vox party, which is seeking to oust the PP as the dominant force on the Spanish right, has claimed that the socialists and their partners in the far-left, anti-austerity Podemos alliance are seeking to replace democratic normality with “a totalitarian one based on uncertainty that has brought Spain nothing but more death, more ruin, more unemployment and less freedom”.