Lessons for Dáil in Spanish politics
Sir, – The recent decision of the Spanish parliament to depose the country’s prime minister and replace him with the centre-left Pedro Sánchez represents an important and reassuring example of the manner in which legislatures in states with a relatively dominant executive can reassert their influence to respond decisively to political developments of which they disapprove, a development which is of great relevance to the present balance of power in Dáil Éireann.
Spain’s electoral system has traditionally provided strong majorities for two large competing parties alternating power, preventing the lower house of parliament, combined with its institutionally weak Senate, from limiting government power in any meaningful way.
The recent fragmentation of the Spanish party system, whereby two new parties gained significant shares of votes, and legislative seats, following the 2015 general election, and the institution of a minority administration, have allowed the Spanish legislature to push back against this dominant executive. The lack of an absolute majority and the threat of the party whip has allowed the legislature to become responsive to the finding of corruption in the party that has governed Spain since 2011.
The 32nd Dáil has seen much greater fragmentation in the party system than its predecessors and has given support to a minority government depending, as did the outgoing Spanish government, on the abstention of a large bloc in parliament, as well as the actual support of deputies from outside the leading government party. The Dáil has now a greater power to exert its influence over the legislative process and the actions of the government.
The dramatic and swift nature of the change of government in Spain may thus serve as a cautionary reminder to our incumbents. – Yours, etc,
Castleknock, Dublin 15.