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POLITICS

Spain’s Andalusia calls regional vote in test for PM

The leader of Spain's most populous region, Andalusia, on Monday called a regional election for June 19th that could see far-right party Vox make gains and step further into the political mainstream.

Spain's Andalusia calls regional vote in test for PM
Andalusia's conservative regional president Juanma Moreno Bonilla in 2019. Surveys suggest the PP will win the most seats in the next election. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

The polls in the southern region will be a test for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s minority government ahead of a national election expected at the end of next year.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) has governed Andalusia, a traditional stronghold of the Socialists, since January 2019 in a minority with the support of Vox and market-friendly party Ciudadanos.

The government’s term expires in December but regional president Juanma Moreno said Andalusia needed a government with a fresh mandate to tackle soaring inflation and the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.

Andalusian law prohibits a regional election from being held in July and August, when many voters are on summer holidays.

Leaving the polls until autumn would not give a new administration enough time to approve a budget for 2023 that confronts the “difficult time we are living in,” said Moreno.

“There is no time to lose,” he added in a televised address.

Vox emerged as a kingmaker in Andalusia in the region’s last polls in December 2018, taking a surprise 12 seats in the first electoral success for the far right since Spain returned to democracy in the late 1970s.

Surveys suggest the PP will win the most seats in the next election and could manage to form a majority in the 109-seat assembly if it forms a coalition with Vox.

The PP has 33.1 percent support, which would give it 44 seats, while Vox on track to win 20 seats, according to a poll published Sunday in daily newspaper El Mundo.

That would give the two formations a total of 64 seats, nine more then needed for an absolute majority.

Vox was sworn in as part of a regional coalition government for the first time earlier this month in the central Castilla y Leon region just north of Madrid where it now governs with the PP.

Founded in 2014, Vox’s platform includes a crackdown on immigration, restricting abortion and rolling back domestic violence laws.

Andalusia, home to 8.5 million people, has high unemployment and is one of the main arrival points in Spain for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

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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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