Six important things we learnt from Spain’s repeat elections

The second election in six months proved surprising but will it end the deadlock? Here's what we know.

Six important things we learnt from Spain's repeat elections
Photo: AFP

Spain went to the polls on Sunday and chose virtually along the same lines as they did last December, with the PP securing the most votes but not enough to win a majority in parliament. 


Charts showing votes, seats and political map of Spain. Source: El Pais

Here are the most important takeaways from the general election of June 26th.

Big win for the PP and Rajoy

Photo: AFP

Few thought that the conservative party could actually improve in the repeat elections. But they proved to be the big winners in the vote, securing an extra 14 seats on the result six months ago but their 137 seats are still far short of the 176 needed for a majority.

A jubilant Mariano Rajoy was jumping up and down with joy on the balcony of PP headquarters in Madrid last night, secure in the knowledge that for the time being at least he had a mandate to govern, even if all other parties have said any deal with the PP could only happen with a change in leadership.

“We have won the elections,” Rajoy told hundreds of cheering supporters outside PP headquarters in Madrid late on Sunday.

“We claim our right to govern.”

Podemos proves a big disappointment

Photo: AFP

The shock of election night came when exit polls proved to be far off the mark and the anti-austerity, anti-establishment lefty grouping Unidos Podemos failed to secure its vote.

Polls running up the vote and exit polls on the day itself all suggested that the coalition led by pony-tailed professor Pablo Iglesias was set to increase its vote and surpass the Socialists to become the main leftist force in the parliament.

Such a result would have given it the upper hand to form a leftist coalition, upending the traditional political class in Spain.

But instead it only secured 71 seats, unchanged from the December result and left firebrand upstarts feeling rather flat.

Socialists maintain dignity despite losses

Photo: AFP

The Socialists were punished at the polls, losing a further five seats from last December when they recorded their worst election result ever. And yet they still managed to spin into a success of sorts because the party managed to cling on as the biggest left-wing force in politics.


Had Podemos overtaken them to the second spot, it is unlikely that Pedro Sánchez could have survived as leader. As it stands, he didn’t do too badly after all.

“Despite the predictions, the PSOE has confirmed that it is the dominant party on the left,” Sánchez told supporters.

Ciudadanos are the biggest losers

Photo: AFP

Once hailed as the crucial kingmaker, the party of Albert Rivera was the biggest loser in round two.

The only party that had seemed ready and willing to form pacts eventually teaming up with the Socialist party, was hammered on polling day, losing a fifth of the 40 seats it won last December.

The centrist party, which is pro-business but stands against corruption, is seen by many as a natural partner to the PP but has refused to work with Rajoy because of his failure to tackle endemic corruption with the party.

Their readiness to team up with the Socialists may have scared away conservatives who viewed them as an alternative to the establishment PP.

The Brexit effect

Photo: AFP

The UK referendum result and subsequent contagion – causing Spain’s Ibex share index to come crashing down on Friday – is widely considered to have caused a last minute swerve towards the PP and the stability and experience they promise.

Could fears over the after effects of Brexit on Spain’s fragile economic recovery have sent voters considering a flutter with the unknown hurtling back to the traditional parties? It would certainly explain why the final result differed so wildly from polls showing voting intentions.

Third election looming

Photo: AFP

The big question that everyone wants answering is will Spain be able to form a government or will it limp on rudderless to a third election?

Rajoy is certainly in a better position than he was but even if he did persuade Rivera to work with him, the two parties combined still fall short of the necessary 176 seats needed to form a majority in the 350-seat Congress.

The Socialists were swift to rule out supporting Rajoy in the formation of a German-style grand-coalition but they could agree to abstain to allow Rajoy’s investiture for the sake of ending the deadlock to form a government.

Such a move would allow the PP to run a minority government likely fraught with conflict and powerless to pass legislation, likely sparking a repeat poll within the year.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election

Spain's central government on Thursday said the announcement of snap elections in Catalonia would delay planned talks between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the region's separatist leadership.

Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election
Catalan regional president Quim Torra (R) meets with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the Palacio de Pedralbes in Barcelona on December 20, 2018.Photo: AFP

News that the regional election would be brought forward was announced by regional president Quim Torra on Wednesday but he did not give a date, suggesting some time after mid-March.

The date was brought forward following a major dispute between Catalonia's two ruling separatist parties, Together for Catalonia (JxC) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

The announcement came ahead of a key February 6 meeting in Barcelona between Torra and Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to lay the ground for talks on resolving the separatist conflict.

In response, Sanchez's office said the meeting would go ahead but that the negotiations would not begin until a new regional government was in place.   

“The government is hoping to be able to begin the dialogue after the Catalan people have spoken… as soon as the elections are over and there is a new (regional) government, then we will begin talking,” said a statement.

“The government remains willing to start the process of dialogue with the Catalan institutions to resolve the political conflict.”

The talks had been agreed as part of a deal with ERC in exchange for its support in getting Sanchez through a key investiture vote earlier this month.   

But the delay was swiftly denounced by the ERC as a “flagrant breach of the agreement which was completely irresponsible,” its party spokesman Sergi Sabria said.

Sanchez, who himself is in a fragile position at the head of a minority coalition government, still needs ERC's support to pass Spain's own much delayed national budget.

In a radio interview Thursday, Torra said he would bring up the right to self-determination and amnesty for the nine jailed Catalan separatist leaders when he meets Sanchez — both of which have already been rejected out of hand by the Socialist leader.