EXPLAINER: Why Spain is heading for yet another general election

Spain will hold a repeat general election in November, its fourth in four years, a further sign of chronic political instability since its parliament started fragmenting in December 2015.

EXPLAINER: Why Spain is heading for yet another general election
Photos: AFP

But where did it all go wrong? Here are the key dates that has led to this current stalemate.

Two-party hegemony shatters

The results of the last election in April show how fractured Spanish politics has become. 

Since the early 1980s, power in Spain had alternated without interruption between the Socialists and the conservative Popular Party (PP).   

But December 20, 2015 put an end to that when two new parties, centre-right Ciudadanos and far-left Podemos, entered parliament for the first time.    

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's PP won the most seats but lost its absolute majority in Spain's 350-seat parliament and was not able to cobble together a governing coalition.

Pedro Sanchez' Socialists, which came in second but also lost ground, reached an agreement with Ciudadanos but this was not enough to form a government.

Due to the political impasse, fresh elections were held on June 26, 2016. The PP gained ground but still fell short of an absolute majority and political paralysis persisted.

Rajoy sworn in for second term

Rajoy was finally sworn in for a second term as prime minister on October 29, 2016, putting an end to a 10-month spell without a government.   

That was because Ciudadanos voted for him in a confidence vote and the socialists abstained.

Weeks earlier, the socialists had ousted their leader Pedro Sanchez who had steadfastly refused to back Rajoy's attempts to form a government.   

Rajoy's minority government managed to pass its budget in 2017 and 2018 by making generous concessions to a Basque nationalist party and regional parties from Spain's Canary Islands.

Sanchez ousts Rajoy

Sanchez, who made a stunning political comeback after being ousted, winning his party's primaries in May 2017, became prime minister after ousting Rajoy in a no-confidence motion in parliament on June 1, 2018.

He had brought the confidence motion after the ruling PP was found guilty of benefiting from illegal funds in a massive graft trial.   

Rajoy was the first prime minister in Spain's modern democratic history to be ousted by parliament after losing a confidence vote.   

Sanchez won the subsequent vote with the support of a hodgepodge of different formations, including Podemos, two Catalan separatist parties and a Basque nationalist party.

Sanchez budget rejected

Sanchez's minority government submitted a left-leaning budget with Podemos which boosted social spending, in the hopes of governing until the end of the current legislature in mid-2020.

But talks with Catalan separatist parties, whose demand for a legally binding independence referendum is unacceptable to Sanchez, broke down.   

Without their much-needed votes, the budget was rejected in parliament on February 13 and Sanchez later called early elections for April 28.

Pyrrhic victory

Sanchez won the vote but with only 123 deputies out of 350, he was forced to form alliances with other parties to govern.

But after four months of on and off contacts, his negotiations with Podemos, the Socialist party's bitter rival, collapsed and the PP and Ciudadanos refused to help him to form a minority government by abstaining in a confidence vote.

On Tuesday, Sanchez threw in the towel, blaming the opposition for the failure to reach an agreement.   

“Spain is bound to hold new elections on November 10,” he told a news conference after King Felipe VI concluded there was no candidate with enough support to form a government.

“I tried by all possible means but they made it impossible for us,” he added.


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Spain’s PM in quarantine after Macron tests positive

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will quarantine until December 24th after French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19, his office said in a statement on Thursday.

Spain's PM in quarantine after Macron tests positive
The two leaders met on Monday in Paris. Photo: AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has suspended all public activities and will self-isolate until Christmas Eve

Sanchez cancelled all items on his agenda for the coming days, starting with his attendance at a ceremony on Thursday at which King Felipe is to open an exhibition.

The Socialist leader attended a number of events in Paris on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), including a lunch with Macron.

Video footage of Macron welcoming the Spanish prime minister at the Elysee Palace showed both wore masks and did not shake hands.

Sanchez, whose wife contracted the virus at the start of the pandemic in March, will be tested for COVID-19.

In a statement the Elysée Palace said that the French president had tested positive for the virus after showing symptoms.

“The president tested positive for Covid-19 today (Thursday),” it said in a statement, adding he had been tested after the “onset of the first symptoms”.

Macron will now, in accordance with national regulations, “self isolate for seven days. He will continue to work and carry out his activities remotely,” it said.

The president, 42, had taken a PCR test and his office added that he had shown only mild symptoms.

READ MORE: French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for Covid-19