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SPANISH POLITICS

Andalusia’s regional elections: Who will win and why it matters for Spain

With pivotal regional elections in Andalusia fast approaching, The Local's political correspondent Conor Faulkner looks into who will win, and what it could mean for national politics in Spain.

Andalusia's regional elections: Who will win and why it matters for Spain
New PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo (L) and Andalusian President Juan Manuel Moreno attend the 20th National Congress of the Popular Party in Seville on April 2, 2022. Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

After months of rumours about snap elections, on Sunday June 19th, voters across Spain’s southernmost region, Andalusia, will finally head to the polls to elect all 109 seats in their regional parliament.

Andalusia is Spain’s most populous region, with 8.5 million inhabitants, and a place where regional politics has the potential to impact on the national political sphere and was until recently the socialist party PSOE’s traditional stronghold in the south.

At least, that was the case until last time around, when Andaluces delivered a shock result in the 2018 elections.

Breaking with 36 consecutive years of socialist rule, Andalusian voters put an end to PSOE’s political hegemony in the region that had seen them lead the regional executive every year since Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy.

READ ALSO: A foreigners’ guide to understanding Spanish politics in five minutes

2018 context

But the truth is that the 2018 election was a little more nuanced than that. Andaluces didn’t suddenly lurch rightwards (though the 2018 election was one of Vox´s first electoral breakthroughs in Spain, winning 11 percent of the vote) but rather southern Spain’s traditionally solid socialist voting block began to disintegrate. Despite forming the government, PP by no means had a strong electoral showing in 2018.

As if often the case in Spain’s more proportional electoral system – one that often spits out coalition or minority governments – PSOE did win the most votes in 2018, but not enough enough to form a government. Parliamentary arithmetic alone, compounded by the emergence of Vox as a fifth party alternative, meant former PSOE regional President Susana Díaz failed to form a coalition.

People’s Party (PP) regional head Manuel Moreno instead formed a coalition with the then politically vibrant centrist Ciudadanos that was reliant political support from Vox.

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Carratraca near Malaga on December 2, 2018 during Andalusia’s last regional election. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Changing landscape

With Ciudadanos’ political support crumbling in recent years and Vox withdrawing their support for Moreno’s government over the border crisis in Ceuta in May 2021, Andaluces head to the polls this month in what is quickly becoming a pivotal and unpredictable election with potential political ramifications across the rest of Spain.

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, and political crises between Madrid and Rabat have destabilised governments at both the regional and national level, and June’s election will not only demonstrate what Andaluces think of their first PP-fronted government but, following Vox’s recent entry into the regional parliament in Castilla y León after coming third in elections there, could also prove a litmus test for right-wing coalition forming on the national level as Spain looks ahead to generañ elections in December of 2023.

READ ALSO: Spain’s far-right enters regional government for the first time

Polling

So, what do the polls say?

Opinion polls published on June 2nd by Spain’s Centre of Sociological Studies (CIS) suggests a clear victory for the PP with 35 percent of the votes for Juanma Moreno, 15 percent more than 4 years ago, although 6 to 8 seats short of the 55 seats for a majority in Parliament.

The new PSOE candidate, Juan Espadas, is predicted 25 percent, 3 percent less than in the last elections.

CIS’s survey results also show Vox would obtain 15 percent, Unidas Podemos and Ciudadanos would get 4 percent each, and left-wing coalition Por Andalucía 9 percent.

Voter forecast in Andalusia’s 2022 regional elections (“estimación de voto” column). Table: CIS

Another poll from think tank Sigmados in late May 2022 also showed that the PP would win 43 seats with 36.7 percent of the votes, 12 seats more than the PSOE and an increase of 17 on their 2018 result.

Their results also showed that PP would fail to gain the 55 seats needed for a majority in the Andalusian parliament, and Sigmados forecast as well that Vox to be the third-largest party with 14.8 percent of the votes and 17 seats.

READ MORE Which elections can foreigners vote in in Spain?

A Vox government in Andalusia?

If Ciudadanos’ political cratering does continue, it means that Vox would likely step-in as kingmakers in any coalition. Projected to win 17 seats, the parliamentary arithmetic means that a PP-Vox coalition would have more than enough seats for a majority.

After officially entering regional government for the first time in Castilla y León, all eyes will be on Andalusia (and Moreno) to see if PP would accept Vox in a coalition government.

The PP’s new national leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo has reportedly told Moreno to avoid repeating what his counterparts have done in Castilla y León.

If Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region and former PSOE stronghold, elects a regional executive with far-right members, many openly anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and anti-Islam, it would be rational to fear such a trend could be transposed from regional governments to La Moncloa and into national government.

PP’s national polling numbers have enjoyed a steady rise since Alberto Núñez Feijóo replaced scandal-ridden Pablo Casado as party leader, and Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE-coalition has had almost its entire time in office swallowed up by pandemic and war.

With the unpredictability of recent years making political predictions difficult, perhaps foolish, all eyes in Spain will be on Andalusia on June 19th. 

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SPANISH POLITICS

Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

Nato has publicly apologised to Spain after it “incorrectly positioned” its national flag during Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s speech at the summit held in Madrid on Wednesday.

Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“Due to an error, the Spanish flag was incorrectly positioned at the beginning of the summit,” said Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu.

It was displayed the wrong way up when Prime Minister Sánchez gave his opening speech to world leaders, including American president Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

As can be seen in the picture above, although the red, yellow and red stripes of Spain’s flag look correct, the coat of arms is the wrong way up.

Spain’s official coat of arms, the right way up.

The situation was particularly embarrassing for the Spanish government as Madrid is this year’s Nato host nation. 

“The error was immediately corrected, as you can see in the photo. Nato apologises for this mistake and thanks Spain for the outstanding hosting of the Summit,” tweeted Lungescu.

Government sources have told the Spanish press that it was a “Nato error” given that the summit is being organised by staff belonging to the intergovernmental military alliance, even though Spain is the host and is helping with proceedings. 

This is not the first time there has been an issue with the way the Spanish flag has been presented during an official event.

Recently in April 2022, while Sánchez had a dinner meeting with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the same mistake occurred and the flag was also seen hanging upside down. 

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