Albert Rivera en una intervención en el pleno del Congreso. Foto: congreso.es

“Ciudadanos are on the right and they don’t want to know it”

Albert Rivera is not centrist: this is how Ciudadanos voted in Congress, in Parliament and in the Barcelona City Council.

What is Ciudadanos’ ideology? Albert Rivera’s followers have often defined themselves as occupying the centre ground and, recently, as a liberal party. However, from the left, they often accused of being a new version of the right sponsered by IBEX-35. What is the reality? CRITIC has overseen the parliamentary activity of the orange formation in the Congress, in the Parliament of Catalonia and Barcelona City Council. The main conclusion: in the Congress, since June 2016, Rivera’s supporters have voted on Rajoy’s side 240 times, which means something of a 75% coincidence. Ciudadanos agree with the Popular Party (PP) not only on Catalonia, but also on work matters, taxation and pensions. The are also multiple encounters with the right in Parliament and Barcelonian city council. We will explain in detail the true ideological profile of Ciudadanos.

Almost three years ago, CRÍTIC published the article “Ciudadanos are on the right and they don’t want to know it”, who analysed how Ciudadanos had positioned themselves in Parliament, a formation which, at its birth, had came to present itself as socialdemocratic. The results of the analysis on its opening day did not leave any room for doubt: on social matters, C’s usually voted almost always in line with the ranks of the traditional right. Now, the party led by Albert Rivera, already has more of a track record not only in Parliament and Barcelona City Council, but also in the Congress of Deputies, where Rivera has reinforced himself as the model leader a supposed new centrist Spaniard. However, is this true? Does Ciudadanos positions in Congress support this thesis?

To corrobate this, CRÍTIC have analysed in depth the actions of Albert Rivera’s ranks in the Congress of Deputies. During this term —which began in the summer of 2016— 320 questions have been voted on. On 240 occasions, 75.2% of cases, they have voted exactly the same as the Popular Party. In contrast, the accordances between the PP and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) are reduced to 60% of the iniciatives. The percentage falls to 34.2% if we compare the accordances between Government’s party and the confederal group of Podemos – En Comú Podem – En Marea (We Can – In Common We Can – En Masse). Furthermore, Rivera’s party has only voted against Rajoy’s 32 time, meaning, in all just 10% of matters. Ciudadanos have, to a great extent, become Rajoy’s crutch in Congress. You can see some examples in the following chart.

Albert Rivera is not centrist
How have Ciudadanos voted in Congress? / Infograph: Helena Olcina.

Against Catalan Independence, more hardline than the PP

Ciudadanos’ proximity to the PP denotes an alignment with Rajoy on key questions. The most obvious case is everything which is linked with the Catalan Indepedence Process. There are several examples: support for the application of Article 155, Parliamentary bill to defend and give support to the work force and security forces of the State, or the presentation, not long before October 1st, of a parliamentary miotion to the “institutional support to the defence of the Rule of law in Catalonia”, which was not passed despite the PP’s vote in favour. They also aligned themselves with the PP and the PSOE reject iniciatives from the Catalan groups, such as two from the PDECat deputy, Jordi Xuclà regarding the “democratic crisis of the operation of justice in Spain”, or about “Operation Dialogue”. In December 2016, the same parties also rejected an iniciative from the then deputy Francesc Homs in which he asked to be addressed the 46 petitions that Carles Puigdemont had made to Rajoy months ago.

In defence of Fernández Díaz

In contrast to the socialists and Podemos, C’s did not believe that during Jorge Fernández Díaz’s phase toward Interior Minister he would put the so-called “Operation Catalonia in motion, nor did they believe resources and police agents would be used with “partisans aims”. The group aligned themselves with the PP in critical defence of the Consitutional Court (TC in Spanish abbreviations) and, for example, in 2016 voted against the parliamentary bill to revoke the express reform of the institution, which they had provided using executive powers.

The PP and Ciudadanos, against the Catalan school model

Ciudadanos have tried to take advantage of the implementation of Article 155 by trying to have action taken on Catalan schools, one of his their war horses. On 23rd November, they suggested creating an “independent agency” that would assume the task of education inspections in schools, essentially to combat their “indoctrination”. The proposal counted on the support of the PP, but with the rejection from the majority of Congress, and it did not go forward, as nor did not make it a governmental party iniciative to strengthen its current control of the centre ground. Two weeks earlier, C’s also voted alongside the PP against the ERC’s motion in defence of the Catalan school model.

The only opposer to the Basque economic agreement

Centrisme has proven on many occasions, like when they became only one of four large groups in Congress to vote against the laws of updating the economic agreement and Basque quota. It is important to remember that C’s do not have a single deputy in the Basque Parliament. In October 2016, it had also been the only group who did not validate the processing of The Autonomy Statue of the Valencia Community, in order to improve their investment of it, and two months later they rejected the reform of the Canary Islands’ Statute of Autonomy, this time aligning only with Podemos.

Support to the budget and defence of the labour reform

While waiting for confirmation of what will happen with the accounts of 2018, at the moment Ciudadanos have always facilitated the approval of the budgets of Rajoy’s Government, in the same way as the many regulations directed towards “gauranteeing budgetary stability”, such as the expenditure ceiling. The two groups have also agreed to lower taxes, a pact that does not benefit the lowest incomes. In these types of economic matters, PP have often encountered obstacles with rejections from the PSOE and always from Podemos.

On work matters, C’s have distanced themselves from the unions’ petitions. Thus, for example, at the end of 2016 they abstained on the proposal from the PSOE for demanding the repeal of the PP’s controversial labour reform -in the legislation with Rajoy as president in functions they had already abstained on a similar proposal from Podemos. They did indeed vote in favour of the controversial reform of the stowage decree, which have provoked a major conflic with workers of the sector. Months earlier, however, they had not guaranteed a proposal from Podemos to improve working conditions for housekeeping staff in the tourist sector, popularly known by the name “Kellys”.

Against improving pensions

During 2017, C’s also did not vote in favour of several initiatives destined to gaurantee decent public pensions, such as a socialist motion to improve widows’ and widowers’ pensions with lesser tax for those over 65 lower incomes, another initiative on measures to ensure that the indemnities do not lose purchasing power -as is now happening- once Social Security Reserve Funds ran out, or another in which the repeal of the so-called “sustainability factor” was defended, as well as the reevaluationn index of pensions, which in practice, until now, has signified payment increases of 0.25%, nearly always below the rate of inflation. All of these proposals received the support of the left-wing groups, rejection from the PP and abstention from Ciudadanos.

Refugees and privitisation of publc services: with the PP

The clear nonfulfilment of meeting the quotas for receiving refugees to which the Spanish Government had been committed with the European Union lead to the Congress in late October approving the reproach of Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, and Exterior Minister, Alfonso Dastis. The vote was put forward by Podemos, and once more, C’s opted to abstain and not a stand against Rajoy’s Executive.

Rivera’s party followed suit with the PP and opposed a motion from Podemos on the “privatisation of public services and health and its effects on the sustainability of the health system”. In another initiative from Iglesias’s group, reffered to as the “growing curruption in water management” linked to the “privatisation” of the service, Rivera’s group also chose to look the other way, whereas a year ago he did reject th proposal to create a “public banking sector” formed by Bankia, Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN) and the Official Institute of Credit (ICO). C’s also had not voted in favour of the eliminating the famous revolving doors policy between the Public Administration and major private business, in this instance, siding with the PSOE and the PP.

Non-annullment of Francoist sentences

The historic memory is one of the topics where Ciudadonas have generated the most headlines, mainly for their difficulties in condemning the Franco regime and its crimes, as Sergi Picazo described in CRÍTIC. And this has not changed the current legislation, given that they have abstained on a proposal from the PDECat to modify the historic memory Law and to annul Francoist sentences, or on another from the PSOE that would specifically nullify the death sentence of Catalan president, Luis Companys. In both cases, the measures went through despite the PP’s rejection.

International Policy: for the liberation of political prisioners… in Venezuela

Finally, with regard to international matters, we could say that C’s have been the most conscientious student from the neoliberal textbook, given that they have ended up being a solitary figure in negating the aggreement towards dialogue and cooperation between the EU, its states and Cuba; they have aligned themselves with the PP several times to put forward the approval of CETA, the controversial treaty of free trade between the EU and Canada; they have stood alongside the PP and the PSOE to ratify the agreement between Spain and Saudi Arabia about “mutual protection of classified information in matters of defence”; and alongside the same two parties, they approved a motion to demand “respect for democracy” and “freedom for political prisoners” in… Venezuela.

Ciudadanos in Parliament (beyond the process)

The first force of Parliament after gaining 36 deputies in the elections of 21st December, Ciudadanos head the opposition to the Government of the Generalitat for second consecutive legislature. In a previous mandate marked, especially, by the independence process, the group led by Inés Arrimadas rejected all of the laws linked to the national matter: Referendum Law, impeachment at the TC regarding the study commission’s conclusions about the constituent process.

Specifically, they only gave support -and in some cases not completely- in 11 of the 26 laws that Parliament approved in the previous legislative. C’s also denied the regulations of the Catalan community abroad. Furthermore, they voted against the budgets of 2016 and 2017 and many linked fiscal measures, such as the tax on non-productive assets of legal entities, which did indeed receive support of Sí Que es Pot (Yes, it is Possible), and the abstention of the PSC. Only the PP were swayed toward a No vote. The group abstained on the Universal Health Care Law, which aimes to guarantee the service to all citizens of the Principality, independent from its administrative situation, and which had votes from Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes), from the PSC, CSQP and the CUP.

Instead, C’s endorsed regulations such as the Climate Change Law, the laws for cooperatives’ credit departments, for trade, markets and services, for cannabis users’ associations and, unlike Congress, the law which declares Francoist trials as null and void. They also supported the Guaranteed Minimum Income which was passed unanimously, and part of the Law for the protection of housing rights for persons at risk of residential exlusion. The party also did not defend the further processing of the CUP’s bill about banking abuses and rejected a motion from the nationalist-left part urging for a public bank in Catalonia.

Barcelona City Council: rejection of the hotel industry regulation and of the public water management

In Barcelona City Council, C’s has shown a very conservative face. The party’s leader in the council is Carina Mejías, ex-deputy of the PP in Parliament. Despite being a strictly local matter, Mejías has constantly brought the national question to the municipal stage, constantly repeating the argument that Ada Colau is “in alliance with nationalism”.

On social matters, the orange party has voted against every single budget of the Colau era, and they opposed the incorporation of Barcelona into the Catalan Association of Towns and Bodies for the Public Management of Water (AMAP), supporter of the remunicipalisation of the service. They have also taken a tough stance against the “squatting”, a topic which Colau has always taken responsability for They have refused the changes to civic by-laws, which significantly reduces sanctions, and they have taken a hardline with the matter of the ‘manters’ – street vendors. Furthermore, they abstained in the vote for the new Citizen Participation Regulation, which will allow an annual cross-consultation to be held with proposals made by parties as well as residents, and they opposed two flag projects from Colau’s government: pedestrianisation and the tourist lodgings regulation plan – the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation (PEUAT).

Finally, they have also made the headlines with the matters linked the historical memory of the past. How? With the abstention on the decision from the plenary session to remove from the city the medal of honour given to the former Francoist minister Rodolfo Martín Villa; with opposition to changing the name of Saló de la Reina Regent for Sala del Plenari Carles Pi i Sunyer, a homage to the city’s republican mayor, o in renaming the Plaça de Llucmajor de Nou Barris for Plaça de la República.

PHOTO: congreso.es. Albert Rivera in an intervention at the Congress of Deputies plenary session. 

Original source (EL CRÍTIC- 18th Febuary 2018)


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