In December 2015, the conservative Popular Party’s government of Mariano Rajoy, while it won the general election, lost its absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies and had the party’s worst result since 1989. From that year onwards, no party has been able to form a long-lasting government. This political instability has led Spain to hold its fourth general election in four years tomorrow. Will this election finally relieve Spain from the ongoing period of political crisis?
A minority government, Pedro Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist and Worker’s Party (PSOE) took office in June 2018, following a motion of no confidence1 that took down the government of Mariano Rajoy. The ousted prime-minister’s Popular Party (PP) was involved in a corruption scandal involving several of its high-ranking members, leading to a severe drop in its popularity. However, Sanchez called for a new general election in April of this year, after he failed to gather support in the Congress of Deputies to pass his budget for 2019.
In the last elections, the PSOE gathered a substantial 29% of the votes, but although it was the party’s first win since 2008, it was short of a majority to govern2. Vox, a far-right party opposing unrestricted migration and multiculturalism, won 10% of the votes and entered the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. The Popular Party (PP) met a historical defeat (16.7% of the votes).
Since the PSOE failed to win an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, it needed backing from other parties. Once again, Sanchez’s inability to secure support this time to form a government is what led to the new November 2019 elections. He called for the elections after failed discussions with Unidas Podemos (UP), a coalition of left-wing parties and Sanchez’s most obvious choice, after disagreements over government ministers and the amount of involvement of the UP in the new government.
Polls: analysis of most likely results
The latest polls by the Office for Social Studies and Public Opinion (GESOP) for the newspaper El Periòdic d’Andorra suggest that we will not see a significantly different political landscape with the November elections, and even report increasing fragmentation, with a smaller win for the PSOE at 26.8%. The PP is expected to see its share of the vote increase to 19.9% after successfully stealing votes from Ciudadanos, a center-right party who surprisingly gathered 16% of the votes in the April elections, and will now see its share more than halved, with the polls predicting a result of 7%. The far-right party VOX is met with a significant increase and should obtain 15.6% of the vote.
Más País, a new far-left splinter party, founded on September 25th, has decided not to run in the constituencies where it could not gather enough support to win seats but could contribute to the loss of seats by other left-wing parties, such as PSOE and UP. Más País is expected to obtain 2.6% of the votes, which has led to the further decrease of the far-left coalition Unidas Podemos to 13% of the vote.
All in all, the PSOE wins without an absolute majority, and probably with fewer seats in the Cortes. The PP will come second, followed by the UP. Ciudadanos will suffer a considerable decrease in votes and seats, as Vox will achieve the opposite. Regarding regionalist and nationalist parties, we do not expect meaningful changes from the previous results.
After the elections, we can expect that King Felipe will ask Pedro Sánchez to be the next Prime Minister, and a new round of negotiations among the parties will follow. In order to be PM, Sánchez needs the majority in the Cortes3 to be able to win the investiture vote or at least have most of the opposition MPs abstain during that vote. As for now, it is not expected that those negotiations will produce a different outcome than the ones that followed the elections in April.
PSOE’s best hope to achieve a majority in parliament is to partner with regionalist parties and the left-wing coalition UP. Even though this might be plausible in mathematical terms, the disagreement points between the PSOE and UP from the last round of negotiations are still valid, making achieving a different outcome unlikely. It does not seem that left-wing parties are ready to make the necessary concessions: the UP wishes to have some ministers of their own, whereas the PSOE wants to form the government alone but backed by parliamentary support. Furthermore, Sánchez recently pointed out that even if an agreement had been reached to form a PSOE-UP government, it would have crumbled during the Catalonian crisis, amid which the UP and its Catalonian coalition Comú Podem have criticized the government’s actions and police intervention. The PSOE is also dependent on the unlikely event that the PP and Ciudadanos do not vote against Sánchez’s investiture. This seems improbable, as the Catalonian crisis accentuated the parties’ differences, and total support from the moderate right-wing opposition to a socialist minority government in the Cortes seems to be an almost unimaginable scenario.
Without concession, diplomacy and statesmanship, the path to a stable government will be hard to find.
Either a PSOE minority government will be formed, unable to count with a majority and likely to fall at the first difficulty, or Spain will have to face yet another General Election in a few months.
1 Vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, managerial, etc.) is no longer deemed fit to hold that position.
2 It won an absolute majority in the senate for the first time since 1989, but to govern, they would need 175 out of 350 seats in the Chamber of Deputies
3 Bicameral legislative chambers of Spain – Congress of Deputies and Senate.
Article Written By:
Ana Catarina Salgado
Ana Maria Terenas
João Maria Sande e Castro