The arrival of members of Podemos in the Spanish government was, in general, greeted with the hope that it would breath fresh air into the executive. The alternative left party's territorial proposal seemed different, as did its economic measures, and as for its defence of rights and freedoms, it was light years from the position of the Socialists. Over time, many of those prospects have dimmed and the flags have faded. Nothing of their territorial model has been seen, beyond well-intentioned statements. Although they are part of the government, there has been an obvious regression in terms of freedoms - much more forcefully in all matters related to the Catalan independence movement - and their presence in the executive has also given a gloss of credibility to Spain's corrupt monarchy.
It would be a little too harsh to say that their presence in the government has simply caused their political demands to cease, but the truth is that too often one gets the impression that the chairs they fill in the cabinet have softened the tone of their proclamations made from opposition. This Wednesday, the Podemos parliamentary spokesperson, Pablo Echenique, raised his voice on two of the issues which, in news terms, are key political matters of the summer: the price of electricity and the expansion of the airport of Barcelona-El Prat. In both cases, Echenique expressed willingness to go into battle within the government, in Parliament and on the street.
It’s fine for him to say this, but if he thinks it, he’d better do it. As one of the governing parties, that's very easy: you provoke a crisis with the PSOE and Pedro Sánchez, at the risk of being cut out of the executive. Anything else is a meaningless gesture. Echenique cannot behave like a talk-show guest anymore when his party occupies one of the deputy prime ministerial posts and four cabinet ministries. Nor is it enough for him to make a vague assertion that the electricity market needs to be reformed. That is valid for the opposition but not for Podemos.
Even more scandalous is the party's position on the controversial extension of the third runway at El Prat, because this plan is no less than an initiative of the Spanish government, and in the Barcelona city council it is opposed by mayor Ada Colau and supported by her first deputy mayor, Socialist politician Jaume Collboni. What have Podemos and their Comuns associates done beyond expressing their opinion? Because, I reiterate: if the matter is so serious, they should leave the Spanish government or Colau should break her pact with the Socialists. If not, it will be seen as a spat in the media, but in the end, no big deal.
And apart from the Comuns' position, the show is far from over on the El Prat extension question. As the days have gone by, more cracks have appeared on the issue in the positions of both ERC and Junts, the two guarantors at Catalan government level of the project promoted by the airport operator firm Aena and the Spanish government. Is it enough to overturn the project? For now, no. But there is not yet a truly convincing explanation of how the environmental protection rules for a protected area, as dictated by the European Commission, will be complied with, and how they will get around the proposal to limit the quantity of flights to destinations reachable by train in less than two and a half hours.