What do the exhumation of Franco and the evacuation of Afghanistan have in common? Pardons and the Housing Law? The La Palma volcano and the state of alarm? That the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños , has intervened in all these matters , the solver that President Sánchez resorts to every time he is presented with an impossible mission.
The last tasks of Bolaños – recently included, in addition, in the leadership of the PSOE – have been to close a method of coordination with United We Can for the labor reform and negotiate so that the budgets pass their first litmus test: the amendments to the whole.
‘SuperBolaños’ –as Zapatero called him in the Socialist Federal Congress, a couple of weeks ago– was born in Madrid in 1975. He has a degree in Law from the Complutense University and was number one in his class in the General Law Course . After working in private offices, in the general elections of 2015 he was number 25 on the PSOE list – a position doomed to not win a seat. In 2018, after the motion of censure, Sánchez appointed him secretary general of the Presidency of the Government.
By then, Bolaños had already excelled in Ferraz. In 2014 he had joined the Ethics and Guarantees Commission of the PSOE and, after winning the primaries against Susana Díaz, the current president commissioned him to draw up a new federal regulation for the development of the party’s statutes , that is, to redo the internal laws of the party.
Shortly after, in 2017, Bolaños was appointed secretary and patron of the Pablo Iglesias Foundation. In the last Congress, Sánchez asked him to coordinate the presentation ‘PSOE 2030, a party for the future’.
A skillful negotiator
With that service record, Bolaños arrived at Moncloa after the 2018 motion of no confidence as Secretary General of the Presidency, and it was him who was commissioned by Sánchez to coordinate one of the most symbolic – and complex – operations of his first term: the Exhumation of the remains of Franco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen .
The current minister had to negotiate with the dictator’s family and informed the president minute by minute during the key day, in which he accompanied the then Minister of Justice, Dolores Delgado, in Cuelgamuros.
After the repetition of the general elections of 2019, when the PSOE assumed that it could not govern alone and that it would have to do so in coalition with United We Can, Bolaños was one of the leaders of the pact with the purple ones, then led by Pablo Iglesias. Closing the distribution of portfolios and competencies was only the first of his major negotiations with the government’s junior partner, with whom tensions have been common throughout these almost two years.
The PSOE and United We Can reached an agreement on the Housing Law on Tuesday after a year of tough negotiations within the Government coalition, which allowed to unblock the Budget project for 2022.
PSOE and UP agree on the Housing Law: rent freeze, youth voucher, plus taxes on empty flats …
It was Bolaños, for example, who unblocked the negotiation of the Housing Law, which first Minister Ábalos and then his substitute, Raquel Sánchez, were unable to close with United We Can. Although the president intervened to seal the final agreement with the secretary general of Podemos and Minister Ione Belarra, Sánchez asked Bolaños to take charge of the talks when he verified that the matter was entrenched and that there was no progress.
It was also Bolaños who this week contacted United We Can to agree on the new coordination mechanism for the labor reform , after Calviño’s attempt – with the support of Sánchez – to lead some conversations that Vice President Yolanda Díaz was leading Piloting since the spring, it will unleash a deep malaise in the government’s purple leg and cause one of the coalition’s greatest crises. Although there are still discrepancies on the substance of the reform, it was Bolaños who managed, at least, to agree on how the works will be addressed from now on.
From Moncloa to Parliament
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, greets the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado upon his arrival at the Yuste Monastery where King Felipe presents the Carlos V European Prize to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
PSOE and PP close an agreement to renew the constitutional bodies, with the exception of the CGPJ
But Bolaños has not only had to ‘dance’ with Unidas Podemos, but has also had to close agreements with other groups. This is the case of the renewal of the constitutional organs, agreed with the PP just 24 hours after Casado opened to unblock them and after Bolaños and the PP secretary general, Teodoro García Egea, resumed the talks that had been suspended months ago for the refusal of the popular to give the definitive ‘yes, I want’. With this step, the Constitutional Court, the Court of Accounts, the Ombudsman and the Spanish Data Protection Agency are no longer in office, and Bolaños is already thinking about the following goal: to renew the General Council of the Judiciary.
The Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, begins today with the PP a round of parliamentary contacts in which he will seek consensus to approve, not only, the Budgets of 2022, but also to carry out pending laws in this new political course, such as the Democratic Memory or the new renewal process of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ).Bolaños, in the Congress of Deputies.
It is also he, who acts as de facto political vice president, who has led the conversations with other groups with a view to the approval of the budgets – vital for the coalition to exhaust the legislature – and who has been present, for example, in the negotiation of the Audiovisual Law with ERC, one of the Republicans’ claims for the approval of the accounts. With the Catalan independentists, he has also seen faces in another of the key issues of the legislature: the dialogue table between the central Government and the Generalitat , which he attends as a prominent member of the Moncloa delegation.
Pardons, alarm, memory, Afghanistan … and a volcano
Hard-working, organized and discreet, Bolaños displays a calm and didactic style in front of the media. In addition to innumerable negotiations, some of the key issues of this legislature have passed through his table , such as, for example, the legal system of the state of alarm that gave legal coverage to the measures against the coronavirus – later overthrown by the TC – or the reports of the Government to justify the pardons to the independence leaders, which he prepared together with Carmen Calvo and Juan Carlos Campo. Bolaños is the only one of the three who is still in the Executive.Precisely with his promotion to minister, he inherited from Calvo one of the star projects of the vice president until then: the Memory Law, to which he had to make some adjustments before its final approval.
But, if there is something about Sánchez’s confidence in his minister for impossible missions, it is that the president turns to Bolaños every time there is an emergency. This was the case, for example, with the Afghanistan evacuation plan, which had to be precipitated by the rapid advance of the Taliban and coordinated by the minister. Or with the aid for the La Palma volcano, another event that required an urgent response and great coordination between multiple ministries , and that Sánchez left, once again, under the baton of his Bolaños.
A song by Astrud says that “there is a man in Spain who does everything.” And Bolaños does not do everything in the government, of course, but for Sánchez it would be difficult for the government to function without Bolaños.