Spain faces a rocky future

Spain faces a rocky future

Parliamentary re-election in Spain © Emilio Morenatti

Was the second new election of the year in Spain for nothing? Forecasts make us fear this. Because little is likely to change in the political scenario, including the permanent blockade – and now the right-wing populists are also making a big splash.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists repeated their April triumph in Spain's second parliamentary election of the year – but the political deadlock in Madrid threatens to become even more insurmountable after Sunday's vote. According to initial forecasts, party fragmentation and the strengthening of right-wing populists make the situation in the new "Congreso de los Diputados" even more complicated than before.

According to figures from the RTVE television station, the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) of "Pedro the Handsome," as women's favorite Sanchez is known, once again clearly missed an absolute majority with around 27.3 percent of the vote (1.4 points less than last time). In addition, the right-wing populists of Vox have scored a huge success.

Conservative People's Party improved

They were able to gain about six percentage points compared to the election in April and got 16.3 percent. This would double their number of parliamentary seats to about 56 to 59. Several parties enter parliament for the first time, including the new left-wing movement Mas PaIs (More Land).

According to the forecasts of the state broadcaster RTVE and other media, there will be little change in the overall picture in Madrid's "Congreso de los Diputados" in the future. The conservative People's Party PP improved by about 3.5 points compared to the last vote six months ago. However, with around 20.1 percent, it remains only the second-strongest faction, clearly behind the Socialists. The party leaders ruled out a grand coalition of the two traditional parties, PSOE and PP, even before the election.

The disaster before the vote

Spanish media had seen disaster coming before the vote. "Uncertainty" ("El PaIs"), "exasperation" ("El Mundo") and "political traffic jam" ("Heraldo") could be read on the front pages of major daily newspapers. RTVE spoke of a "scenario of complete uncertainty". This is also reflected in the low voter turnout, which was up to 18.00 o'clock was only 56.86 percent. In the last election, 60.72 percent of eligible voters had voted at the same time.

While Vox rose from fifth to third place, the left-wing alliance Unidas Podemos (UP), overtaken by the right-wing populists, suffered a heavy defeat, slipping from 42 seats to 30 to 34. In fifth place come the liberal Ciudadanos, which slumped completely. They fell from 57 to 15 mandates.

"Ending the blockade"

A majority capable of governing is still not in sight. Although the most likely outcome is still a collaboration between the Socialists and UP. But in the miserably failed talks of recent months, the two sides had moved further and further away from each other. While Sanchez expects political groups to tolerate a "progressive" minority government, UP leader Pablo Iglesias continues to call for a coalition government.

Sanchez had said Friday he would present a proposal to "end the blockade" to the PP, UP and Liberals "within 48 hours" of the election. Socialist won't talk to Vox. It is an "ultra-right party" that calls "homosexuals sick" and wants to close down media outlets. "The history of Europe has a name for such movements," stressed Sanchez, who likens the Vox people around party leader Santiago Abascal – an avowed bullfighting fan – to the Franco dictatorship.

Fourth parliamentary election since the end of 2015

It was already the fourth parliamentary election since the end of 2015. Spain had already experienced a political deadlock in 2016, when despite two rounds of elections within six months, the country remained without a regular government for almost a year because of severe vote fragmentation. After a vote of no confidence in his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, Sanchez came to power in June 2018 with a minority government. Because he couldn't get his budget through in February, there was the first new election of the year in April.

At the end of September, King Felipe VI. Then call another early election because the deadline to form a new government had passed without agreement, even after months of negotiation wrangling. This could easily happen again in 2020. What then? The analyst of the conservative digital newspaper "El Espanyol," Angel Fermoselle, and the leftist Inigo Errejon of the newcomer party Mas PaIs are surprisingly unanimous: Then new party leaders must be found.

This may be necessary, because Spain is facing many problems: First and foremost, the independence conflict in Catalonia, which has just come to a violent head in recent weeks. "Catalonia and Vox scare me," said a young voter in Madrid. In addition, if unemployment remains high (the second highest in the EU), there is a threat of an economic slowdown. And there are also the up-and-coming right-wing populists. "Spain must not lose any more time!", demanded the newspaper "ABC" on Sunday.

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