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POLITICS

Fresh elections almost certain but will results be different?

Barring a last-minute twist, Spaniards are set to go to the polls again in June just months after they voted a first time - and for some parties, the campaign appears to have started already.

Fresh elections almost certain but will results be different?
Spain could be going back to the polls in June. Photo: AFP

Parties have in vain tried to agree on a coalition government since December elections resulted in a hung parliament divided among four main groupings, none of them with enough seats to govern alone, as voters fed up with austerity, unemployment and corruption flocked to upstarts.

King Felipe VI will hold talks with party leaders next week in a last-ditch bid to get them to form a coalition, but if that fails, it is all but certain that fresh polls will be called for June 26th as the timeframe to form a government draws to a close.

Already this week, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appeared to be knee-deep in electioneering when he paid a visit to a village deep in the central arid region of La Mancha, surrounded by a crowd of 60-something residents, taking photos with those who asked him.

'Electioneering'

Cosying up to Spain's rural and ageing population – key supporters of his conservative Popular Party (PP), which came first in December's elections but without an absolute majority – he told the villagers they had “the same rights” as city dwellers.

His caretaker government also announced it would pay out the second part of a bonus for civil servants that had been frozen during the crisis, in direct contradiction with its promise to save money after overshooting its public deficit target last year.

“Electioneering”, shouted his opponents and the centre-right daily El Mundo, pointing out that the first half of this frozen bonus had been paid out by the PP shortly before December's elections.


The four party leaders are already preparing for another election. Photo: AFP

In the meantime, far-left party Podemos – which came third in the polls – announced it was organising a spring party Sunday in a Madrid park “with activities for kids, concerts, cycling, a picnic and a load of surprises.”  

A high-level member of the Socialist party, which came second in the elections, said he was “99.9 percent sure” that new polls would be held.

Led by Pedro Sanchez, the Socialists had been tasked by the king with forming a government after Rajoy pulled out for lack of support.

He reached a deal for a government with centrist upstart Ciudadanos – but this did not give both parties enough seats to get a majority in parliament for the necessary vote-of-confidence.

So Sanchez tried to reach an agreement with Podemos, whose 65 parliamentary seats would have got it through, but failed.    

Polls predict that if new elections are held, the results will be similar to those of December.

The PP is seen as coming in first again, and the Socialists second with Sanchez at its head.

Podemos may lose votes, though, as some of the five million people who backed the anti-austerity party last time accuse it of blocking the formation of a left-wing government to chase away the conservatives, in power since 2011.

Far-left alliance?

Rajoy is expected to remain the PP's candidate despite calls for him to step down following a series of corruption scandals that have hit his party in recent months.

“The only possible people who could replace him are very loyal to him,” a PP lawmaker told AFP, wishing to remain anonymous, adding that the party may even do better than in December if fewer young voters cast their ballot, disappointed by Podemos.

“That's good for us,” he said.    

To remedy this possible scenario, Podemos could forge an alliance with Izquierda Unida, a communist-green party that got 800,000 votes in December.  

“There is a willingness to negotiate… to see what the options are,” Podemos lawmaker Pablo Bustinduy told reporters this week.  

The aim would be to surpass the Socialists in new elections, giving Podemos even more influence than it gained in December.

By Michaela Cancela-Kieffer and Anna Cuenca

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SPANISH POLITICS

What the PP’s landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain’s ruling Socialists

A resounding win by Spain's conservative Popular Party in a weekend regional election in Andalusia appears to have boosted its chances in national elections next year and weakened Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

What the PP's landslide win in Andalusia means for Spain's ruling Socialists

The Popular Party (PP) secured 58 seats in Sunday’s election in Spain’s most populous region — three more than the 55 needed for an absolute majority. That constitutes its best-ever result in the longstanding Socialist stronghold.

The Socialists won 30 seats, their worst-ever result in Andalusia. It governed there without interruption between 1982 and 2018, when it was ousted from power by a coalition between the PP and centre-right Ciudadanos.

This was the Socialists’ third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez’s government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Socialist party officials argued the results of a regional election “can’t be extrapolated” nationally.

But in an editorial, centre-left daily El Pais said no one can deny the gulf in the election scores obtained between the two parties in two of Spain’s most populated regions — Andalusia and Madrid.

This was “more than just a stumble”, it argued.

“This may be a symptom of a change in the political cycle” at the national level, it added. The conservative daily ABC took a similar line.

‘Worn down’

Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University, said this “new cycle” in which “the right is stronger” began when the PP won a landslide in a regional election in Madrid in May 2021.

It could culminate with the PP coming out on top in the next national election expected at the end of 2023, he added.

But Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, took a more cautious line.

“The government is worn down after four difficult years due to the pandemic” and the war in Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation, she said.

She refused to “draw a parallel” between Andalusia and Spain, arguing “there is still a lot of time” before the next national election.

Sanchez come to power in June 2018 after former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy was voted out of office in a no-confidence motion triggered by a long-running corruption scandal.

The PP then suffered its worst-ever results in the next general election in 2019, which the Socialists won.

Sunday’s election was the first since veteran politician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a moderate, took over as leader of the PP from Pablo Casado following a period of internal party turbulence.

Partido Popular (PP) candidate for the Andalusian regional election Juanma Moreno greets supporters during a meeting following the Andalusian regional elections, in Seville on June 19, 2022. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

‘Packing his bags’

“People are fed up with Sanchez,” the PP’s popular regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said Monday.

“If national elections had been held yesterday, the result would have been the same and today he would be packing his bags,” she added.

Up until now, the far-right Vox party had supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

This time around however, it had said its support would be conditional on getting a share of the government of the southern region.

But the PP’s commanding victory in Andalusia means that is now moot: it no longer has to rely on far-right party Vox to govern.

At the national level, it could be a different story however, said Pablo Simon.

A PP government nationally that did not rely on Vox would be “impossible” due to the fragmentation of parliament, which has several regional and separatist parties.

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