It is difficult to understand that a coalition government should need more ministers than a single party executive and, even though these are times for preaching austerity, new Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez will unveil his new executive this Sunday with no less than 22 ministers, including the four deputy PM roles. This is five more than Sánchez had in his cabinet when he came to power after the 2018 vote of no-confidence in Mariano Rajoy, and nine more than Rajoy himself prior to that. Any more and the blue-upholstered front bench in Spain's Congress of Deputies would begin to run out of space for members of the newly created coalition government.
The new Spanish executive is distinguished by having four deputy prime ministers, when the previous maximum was three under Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The way that Pedro Sánchez created the fourth deputy PM post, that of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, for Teresa Rivera, was a surprise to his Podemos partner, Pablo Iglesias. The question may seem a minor one, but it is not: is it normal to provoke a disagreement like that before you begin to get to work, simply to dilute the role of Iglesias? Or is it even an act of disloyalty to what the two partners agreed and signed?
The fact that the last ministry that has been announced, in Sánchez's measured strategy of spreading out the announcements in order to maintain the intrigue and feed the speculation, is that of justice, with the nomination going to Juan Carlos Campos, is certainly a circumstance which epitomizes the current situation. Justice is the hot potato of this new government and, in some ways, the backbone on which the full weight of a reorientation of the Catalonia-Spain relationship will have to stand or fall. Putting an end to the judicialization of politics is the cornerstone of easing the conflict, and here the public prosecutors and the courts will have a lot to say.
And it is normal that Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta should seek to gain time in the development of possible agreements that could be reached at the so-called dialogue table, which is to see Catalan and Spanish government representatives arrive, papers in hand, at a first meeting before Monday, January 27th, as was agreed: they are to meet "within 15 days of the formation of the government of Spain", and will "establish the specific deadlines for their meetings and the presentation of their conclusions." But it is necessary to state already that neither in this matter, nor in any other, will the government have the hundred days of grace which former executives have usually been given. Now, time is of the essence, as there are many issues that have to be resolved.