Spanish newspapers made their final bets on the last day of this general election campaign today. ABC ran an interview with Pablo Casado: the “responsible, patriotic” thing to do is to vote for the PP and get rid of Sánchez. El Mundo ran an interview with Albert Rivera, in which the Ciudadanos leader proposed a 10-year plan for fixing Catalonia, along with an immediate move to suspend home rule in the region.
El País ran an interview with Pedro Sánchez, in which the Prime Minister warned about the “real risk” that the “far-right”, Vox, would make it in to government via a right-wing coalition. The paper covered its home page with two other warnings about Vox and big bright red ads reading “vote PSOE”. La Razón's front page was a basic message: Sánchez bad, Casado good.
The two election debates on TV were, after all the fuss, little more than overlapping recitals of four parties' election manifestos, with a few digs at opposing parties, some props and graphs (Mr. Rivera probably won that little game) and lots of talking loudly over the top of each other.
So much did they talk loudly over each other that one of the presenters in the Antena 3 debate, Ana Pastor, reminded the candidates several times that viewers at home could not even hear what they were saying when they did that. To no avail. They kept going. The noise from each cancelled out the noise from the other three.
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No depth at all was to be found in either of the debates, on any issue, which were standard blocks of topics like healthcare or pensions or “territorial policy”, a broad euphemism for the Catalan mess, which they also skimmed over.
No Trump, no coming global economic crisis, no fourth industrial revolution or the effect of robots on jobs, no climate change, no artificial intelligence, no science, no culture.
Nor was any personal depth uncovered in any of the candidates. No pressing moral questions without easy answers were asked.
The man creating all the election buzz this year, Vox leader Santiago Abascal, was absent from both debates, but the party was present in the subtext of the comments of all of the last-minute front pages and big interviews.
Casado needs people to vote for the PP because a huge chunk of his electorate has gone to Vox. Rivera is talking up Catalonia because the toughest line on that issue has been proposed by Vox. And Sánchez is warning on Vox because of, well, Vox.
In the PSOE's case, it helps the socialists while hurting Casado and Rivera on the right.
Abascal tweeted a photo of four parrots during the first debate and tried to counter-schedule the second with a speech at a rally near Madrid. Vox appears to have won the social media game this year, with by far the most YouTube views and Google searches, although El País reported the party had been using Twitter bots.
Vox has also won the “videos of long excited queues outside rallies” game.
The final polls (published last Monday) were flat, with no relevant shifts since the middle of March. There are indications the polls from different companies might be “herding”, or grouping together in a manner that suggests they might all have missed something important. That obvious “something important” in Spain this year is Vox.
Nobody, then, has a clue what will really happen on Sunday but all the signs suggest the big election surprise this year, if there is one, will be Vox. The only question is: how many MPs will Abascal have by Monday morning?