the keys to voting on the labor reform

The labor reform has been one of the star projects of the Government of Pedro Sánchez and is already a reality thanks to endless days of negotiation with employers and unions, for months. But those very long trading hours could have vanished in seconds. Neither the Government nor anyone imagined how it would come out ahead in the Congress of Deputies in a day that already remains for the history of parliamentarism in Spain and that has provoked one of the biggest political rows in living memory with very serious crossed accusations of “buying wills”, “ripping”, “democratic and legal fraud”, “trumpism” and “tamayazo”, and that could have consequences in court. A judge has already opened proceedings to investigate the vote after a complaint. Now there are many questions that remain in the air and different versions that explain what happened in Congress.

The deputies attending this Thursday’s session speak of a “blurry show”, “grotesque”, “pure surrealism” or “madness” to describe what was experienced inside a chamber where faces went by neighborhood and changed every second: first, gestures of panic in the government bench when for a moment of confusion the reform was considered repealed; jumps of joy between PP and Vox, before the real possibility of knocking down the reform; to give way to the explosion of joy at the cry of ‘yes you can’ when the ‘yeses’ finally outnumbered the ‘noes’. And faces, everyone’s, of capital surprise when it was discovered that only a telematic vote of the PP deputy Alberto Casero made the victory of the Government possible in a heart attack ending that no one expected. A vote with political, legal and institutional consequences that will surely come and that promises to be the protagonist in the coming days and even more so in the midst of the campaign for the autonomic elections in Castilla y León, absolutely conditioned by this matter.

The Government saves the labor reform with the support of Cs and without the investiture block by one vote

What the first vice president of the Government, Nadia Calviño, said the night before on TVE was a premonition: “I’m not going to celebrate until the end of the vote.” He almost did not celebrate it and if he did celebrate it – with a hug of total relief to three with Sánchez and the second vice president, Yolanda Díaz – it was because of an unexpected carom that Minister Félix Bolaños has not hesitated to describe as “divine justice”. The calculators were fuming and, although very fair, the Government would get the accounts hours before the vote thanks to a transversal majority with the votes of PSOE, United We Can, Citizens, PdeCat, Más País, Compromís, the PRC, Teruel Exists, Canary Coalition, Nueva Canarias and UPN, committed before the voting day – a sum that was worth the PSOE but that convinced very little to its government partner. But the UPN deputies did not do what they had to do, according to the guidelines of their party.

The gestures of the deputies after the vote on the labor reform

This vote has shown that variable geometry in Congress walks on a wire increasingly fine that makes a reform of the draft of the labor depend on a single vote, this arrived by pure rebound and by mistake. It must be remembered that Pedro Sánchez was elected president in January 2020 with a difference of two votes, the narrowest margin in history. Times of very liquid majorities in a Congress where tension is already everyday with parties launching very serious accusations in which they themselves question the institutions they represent.

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Why did UPN skip voting discipline?

UPN had reserved the surprise of the day: the two deputies of the Union of the Navarrese People skipped the voting discipline and voted ‘no’which totally moved the balance and made the green light for the reform unfeasible, in what would have been a severe blow to the coalition Executive. The other vote of discord – that of the PP deputy – gave a new turn to events and finally the Government, and only because of that wrong vote, was able to celebrate victory. A smile of fate for Sánchez, as a former deputy and former vice president would say.

The PSOE assures that the vote of the Navarrese deputies supporting the labor reform was agreed in advance and decided to change it. The two deputies acknowledge that there was an agreement between the leadership of their party and the Socialists, but that they did not know its terms and were opposed to this labor reform. They complain that no one from the management explained to them the reasons why they had to say ‘yes’.

The truth is that the UPN leadership did not know what they were going to do and they speak in the party of “incalculable damage with repercussions.” The president of the party, Javier Esparza, who led the negotiation with the PSOE, made it clear this Friday that the instruction was clear, he said he felt “very hurt” because “UPN fulfills its commitments and is a party with its word.” “They no longer represent UPN,” he asserted. The leadership has decided that if the deputies do not leave their minutes, they will be expelled from the party, in what would be the first significant political consequence after this vote.

The UPN deputy Sergio Sayas – who faced Esparza in the primaries for the leadership of the party – said this Friday on TVE that they knew at all times that they were going to vote ‘no’, but the truth is that on the day of the vote for the tomorrow what they said is that, despite not agreeing, would respect the voting discipline. They were ambiguous, but there was no indication that they would vote ‘no’. Own Sayas has denied any pressure from the PP to change the direction of their vote. The ‘popular’ also deny the version that the PP is behind the vote of the Navarrese and ask the socialists “not to invent”. Some deputies have assured TVE that they saw these two deputies speak throughout the day with other parliamentarians from PP and Vox.

From Genoa, its Secretary of Communication, Pablo Montesinos, has indicated that the PSOE is “nervous” because “it knows of the political weakness” of Sánchez and the “fracture” of the Government.

The PSOE speaks of “buying wills” and the PP of “pucherazo”

But the PSOE is clear about it. Affirm that the PP, which he calls “trumpist and denier”, does not assume the result of the voteand directly accuses the party of “buy the wills” of the two UPN deputieswhom he accuses of “political transfugism”. “It only remains to know what the price has been”said this Friday the deputy general secretary of the PSOE, Adriana Lastra, in a very harsh appearance.

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“The buying and selling of wills is corruption and the Popular Party is a corrupt party,” Lastra also assured.

The Government regrets that “all kinds of arts” were used to “knock down the labor reform”. The criticisms of the Government and the Socialists go further and believe that PP and Vox have wanted to strike a “blow” against the general interest of Spain, workers and companies.

And the PP continues with its other version of events, no less serious. He describes what happened as a “rib to national sovereignty” and asks that the situation be “reversed” and that a vote be taken again because they insist that their deputy voted what he had to vote for and there was a mistake. If this is not done, the ‘popular’ leader himself, Pablo Casado, has announced that the party will accuse the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet, of “prevarication” and will request protection from the Constitutional Court.

“It is a failure for Sánchez that the star measure of his legislature had to be approved with this parliamentary rigging,” says the president of the PP.

Parliamentary sources have assured TVE that the PP knew that the two UPN deputies would turn the situation around and some deputies have ensured that from the ‘popular’ bench and that of Vox they were “strangely happy” before a vote that in theory and with the previous numbers in hand, they were going to lose.

In an unprecedented situation, the ERC and PNV parliamentarians were astonished, as Aitor Esteban himself acknowledged in conversation with RNE, in those seconds of confusion in which nothing was taken for granted. They voted against knowing that he would get ahead with other sums.

Casero insists that his vote was “broken”…

The PP stands by its version and the deputy himself who voted ‘yes’ to the reform, very close to number two of the PP, Teodoro García Egea, has sent a letter to Batet in which insists that he voted ‘no’ to the reform and in the certificate issued by the Chamber it was stated as ‘yes’, which seemed to him to be a “system failure”. Casero moved from Cáceres to Madrid to vote in person when he checked the PDF of his vote receipt minutes later, something that was “prevented” according to the letter. He then saw a ‘yes’ to the labor reform that he says he did not press. The regulation makes it clear that once the vote has been cast electronically, it cannot be done in person.

The images that show Casero sitting on the ‘popular’ bench are after the face-to-face vote. Even if he had entered earlier – the hemicycle closes doors when voting begins but the pandemic has relaxed this measure – the system would not have allowed that vote to be counted because he had already voted from home.

Late this Friday, the PP once again complained to Congress that the president “has not taken any action after the controversial vote” nor has she responded to her demands that she urgently meet with the House Committee to deal with the “anomaly” in the vote. PP deputies urged Batet so that Casero returned to vote again in person, but she denied it, arguing that the services of the Chamber informed her that there was no failure in the telematic vote.

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…and Congress defends a “guarantee” vote

Congress states that the computer system has not failedthat it is “absolutely guaranteed” and that they have made the verifications and that the PP deputy voted ‘yes’ to the labor reform. The deputy was wrong in two other votes of the twenty that they had in that plenary session in which not only the labor reform was voted.

According to sources told RTVE, since the start-up of this telematics system in 2012, no technical failure has occurred and, when there have been complaints, it has been concluded that these were due to human error. A vote in Congress has never been repeated due to the error of a deputy. And there are important precedents: former minister José Luis Ábalos mistakenly cast a blank vote in the election of Enrique Espejel and Concepción Arnaldo for the Constitutional and, despite the fact that he warned of the ruling, the legal services did not allow him to change it.

Other errors in political voting: they affect all colors and other institutions

“Almost all groups have been wrong at some time but this goes to church, it cannot be changed,” Gabriel Rufián acknowledged on TVE on Friday. In fact, voting errors are relatively common in Parliamentwhich has a highly valued procedure to proceed with this telematic vote that requires a double confirmation.

What about the investiture block?

Three votes – the two from UPN and the one from the PP deputy – have provoked this political storm and have overshadowed any other debate derived from the plenary session of the reform, but there are other votes – mainly those of ERC, PNV and Bildu – that Sánchez missed. Had the government tied up the majority of the investiture bloc, that mistaken vote would have remained a mere anecdote, like so many others, and nothing would have been said about it.

Both the Catalan Republicans and the Basque nationalists have made Sánchez ugly precisely because he has not made, in his opinion, the necessary efforts to tie up some support that would not have put him on the ropes with majorities “that may be unsuccessful,” said Rufián.

Neither the PNV nor the ERC see relations with the Government as broken and both emphasize that this vote was outside their investiture agreement, although “everything affects it”, Esteban has recognized, who has stated that until hours he tried to agree with the Government his ‘ Yes’. Both now advocate rebuilding the bridges for other votes that are expected in Congress and for which the Government will surely try to secure broader majorities.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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