Spanish elections see far-right surge

Saturday 16th November 2019 | Jake

The Spanish people went to the poles for the second time this year on Sunday. Back in April an inconclusive vote had left the left-wing PSOE as the largest party. They subsequently failed to form the coalition government they desired, and called for another election. Back in April PSOE were far short of a majority in Spain’s 350 seat parliament. They hoped to gain that majority this weekend. Instead their grip on power loosened further, and they invited a surge in support for the far-right.

Once again, PSOE received the largest number of votes, winning 120 seats, three fewer than April. Even more disastrously for PSOE was the gains made by their right-wing rivals. PP, the traditional conservatives won 88 seats, an increase of 22 from April. The far-right Vox party, meanwhile, more than doubled its number of seats from 24 to 52. Elsewhere the centre-right Citizens party were left reeling by a loss of 47 seats. They had the opportunity to enter into a coalition with PSOE after April’s vote, but now have just 10 seats to their name.

The election further muddies a confused political landscape in Spain. Sunday’s election was the fourth in four years, and voter turnout has dwindled to just below 70%. Acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez, leader of PSOE, will now attempt to form a coalition government. For a self-styled socialist party, PSOE had shown a counter-intuitive reluctance to negotiate with the genuinely left-wing Unidas Podemos party in the past. PSOE’s refusal to negotiate with the anti-austerity party was one of the reasons behind their failure to form a left-wing coalition.

Fast forward to Sunday and Unidas Podemos had finished fourth (just as it did in April) with 35 seats, seven fewer than in April. The left-wing alliance he turned down in April will be difficult to form now, considering the seats they’ve lost. Sanchez’s ‘victory’ speech was drowned out by chants of “con Iglesias si” (with Iglesias yes), as supporters made clear their wish for a deal with leader of Unidas Podemos Pablo Iglesias. On Tuesday he duly announced he’d reached an agreement to work with Unidas Podemos. Sanchez will still need seats, however, with Unidas Podemos’ seats still leaving him 21 short of a majority.

Sanchez’s attempts to form a PSOE-led government is just one of the headaches he will be suffering from in the coming weeks. There will be more chaos surrounding the Catalan crisis, as pro-independence parties performed well in the region. Sanchez will also have to find a way to stem the flow of support for Vox, the fervently anti-immigrant party. Just like in April, the future of Spain remains undecided, unclear and uncertain. This is one thing the Spanish people can agree on.