After the great victory of the right-wing bloc in the Spanish regional elections in May this year, prime minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialists called an early general election in the hope of being able to mobilize his supporters against a “right-wing danger” in the middle of the summer holidays.
The general election was last Sunday and although the opinion polls repeatedly predicted a right-wing triumph and a change of government, in the end it was at most a half victory for the conservatives and an unsatisfactory outcome for both sides.
The mainstream conservative People’s Party did gain strong ground, but not enough to be able to govern, and also at the expense of their potential coalition partner, the right-wing nationalist Vox, which lost significant support against expectations. The Socialists escaped the expected defeat but only came second and together with their left-wing coalition partner who lost support, they also lost the majority.
Why Vox, against the predictions and against the trend in Europe where right-wing parties have currently fared well, is not entirely clear. One reason is indeed the incantation of the “right-wing danger” by Sanchez and the leftists and the eternal recall of the Franco regime which has now passed for almost half a century and which most Spaniards have not even experienced. Sanchez’s leftist agenda, driven by his even more leftist partners with the gender and weeks-agenda did make many people angry, but also mobilized many others against the right-wing bloc.
Furthermore, the Volksparty and Vox also fought each other, while the left bloc was united. The People’s Party, rather like the DA in South Africa, mobilized many people who might have voted for Vox according to their beliefs, with the slogans “stand together behind the biggest opposition party” and “don’t waste your vote on a small party”.
In order to govern, a majority of 176 seats is needed. The Volksparty has 136 seats on its own and Vox 39, so together 169 and seven short. However, the left-wing bloc made up of Socialists (122 seats) and the new left-wing party Sumar (31) together have even less, namely 153 seats.
Two previously important players have fallen away: the left-wing Podemos, which went up in Sumar, and the centrist Ciudadanos (the Citizens), which did not want to take part in the general election after the defeat in the regional elections. There are also a multitude of regional parties due to Spain’s federal character and its various minority languages such as Basque, Galician and Catalan, with between one and seven seats. The current left-wing government is supported by several separatist parties, which, however, is also the reason for the instability of the government and makes them a target of the right-wing, which is opposed to any concessions to the regions.
At this stage, it is still completely uncertain who the next prime minister will be and with which coalition. Tough negotiations lie ahead. The problem is that while the People’s Party will still accept Vox as a coalition partner, none of the regional parties will. On the left, for a majority, Sanchez will have to add so many different small parties to a coalition that will each demand their pound of flesh that his government will only become even more unstable. A re-election later this year, if no agreement can be found, is also a possibility.