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Regional vote proves political game-changer

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Regional vote proves political game-changer
President of Andalusia's regional government Susana Díaz during a press conference in Seville. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP
13:11 CET+01:00
A minority win for the PSOE, devastation for the PP, and the rise of two newcomers. What do the Andalusian election results mean for Spain's political parties?

On Sunday, March 22nd, Andalusians went to the polls to elect their regional government in a keenly watched vote that was widely seen as a litmus test for municipal, regional and general elections due to be held across the country later this year.

Socialist Susana Díaz, the president of Andalusia, called early elections just eight weeks ago after a coalition with the United Left (IU) became unworkable.

The elections have confirmed the ascent of Spain's two newest political parties, the enduring popularity of the Socialist party in Andalusia and a plummet in votes for the Popular Party.

Participation in this election stood at 64 percent up, a slight rise on the 60.78 percent in 2012.

What do the election results mean for Spain’s political parties?

The PSOE

The Socialists retained 47 seats, the exact same number that they won in the 2012 elections, although their percentage of vote dropped by nearly 4 percent.

The result is a resounding endoresement for leader Susana Diaz and showed that the corruption scandals had barely dissuaded voters away from the PSOE.

But the PSOE did not do enough to secure an absolute majority by winning the required 55 seats which means it will have to make an alliance or struggle to govern.

The PSOE, who have held power in Andalusia for over three decades, have ruled out a coalition like in the last election when they partnered up with the United Left. 

Susana Díaz announced on Monday that “I am going to govern alone”. She does not want a repeat of the “instability” of the coalition with the United Left that made her call early elections.

Ruling out entering into a coalition means the PSOE will have to negotiate with the other parties on every bill.

Only the PP and Podemos joining together would result in more seats than the PSOE and that is unthinkable. Díaz said all parties had to work together for the good of Andalusia.

Popular Party

Sunday’s results saw votes plummet for Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) and saw them suffer a huge defeat with the loss of 17 seats. With half a million fewer votes that in 2012 the party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy only secured 33 of the 50 seats it won last time round.

El Mundo reported that Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo on Monday called the result "infinitely worse than we were expecting" blaming a split in centre-right votes for the success of the left.

The result will send shockwaves through the ruling party in Madrid who will be eager to avoid the same damning erosion of support at the municipals in May and the general election later in the year.

Podemos

The results have confirmed the ascent of Spain’s two newest political parties, especially Podemos which is now firmly established as Spain’s third political force.

The anti-establishment party, which is just over a year old, has risen from nothing to secure 15 seats, or 14.84 percent of the vote in its first domestic test.

Spanish daily El Mundo said Podemos' performance had given the Andalusian political scene a "strong kick" but had not turned it completely on its head. 

Podemos has ruled out a coalition with the PSOE. The party’s candidate for the province of Seville Juan Moreno Yagüe, said on Monday that his party would not support Díaz as president because Podemos "represents change and it’s not going to be more of the same, we are not going to support everything staying the same".

The party had downplayed their chances ahead of the election, pointing to the PSOE’s unwavering popularity in Andalusia, but Podemos came first in Cádiz, home of candidate Teresa Rodríguez.

It will give the party a boost as they go into the national elections later this year. Voter intention polls have repeatedly placed Podemos in the lead.

Ciudadanos

The election also saw the rise of another newcomer, at least on the national scene. Ciudadanos eroded the PP’s support, winning nine seats or 9.28 percent of the vote in their first Andalusia election.

Many voters disillusioned with the Popular Party but fearful of voting for the radical left Podemos have been drawn towards Ciudadanos, who started out in 2006 as a Catalan regional party before going nationwide last month.

Leader Albert Rivera now holds "the keys to governing" according to El País. A coalition between Ciudadanos and the PSOE would proivde the necessary majority, although Rivera has ruled out the idea of supporting the PSOE unless Griñán and Chavaz - the two senior Andalusian socialists embroiled in a corruption scandal - give up their seats. 

Susana Díaz herself said the success of Podemos and Ciudadanos represented "an early warning" and a "lesson for all political forces".

United Left (IU)

The big loser of the election was undoubtedly the United Left, who was in a governing coalition with the PSOE until the relationship between the two parties became unworkable.

A coalition of the IU and The Greens only managed to win 5 seats with 6.89 percent of the vote.

That is a loss of seven seats and makes Sunday’s election results the worst the IU has ever performed in Andalusia.

IU’s leader, Antonio Maíllo told El País he was "completely dissatisfied" with the results. 

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