The Andalusian voters -almost 20% of the Spanish Census- went to the polls on Sunday to elect their regional parliament. They have chosen to keep the socialists as a minority government. PSOE secured 35% of the vote to secure 47 seats out of a total 109. The result is also notable for the punishment meted out by the electorate to the Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy, whose vote collapsed from 40% to 26%, the party losing 17 seats (50 to 33).
The socialists will continue to rule a region they have governed for the past 35 years, although it remains who they will seek as coalition partners. Previously, the party had shared governance responsibilities with the United Left, but this time round the party may choose a more diverse “a la carte” composition that draws from both sides of the political divide.
The elections can be regarded as a success story for the socialists even though the result in the region is the worst on record for the party. Yet they have managed to stabilise the ground, and in Susana Díez, the party has managed project the most dynamic new leader in 40 years into the spotlight. However, the parallel failure of the Popular Party is made all the worse by the party’s inability to topple the socialists in the wake of a number of flagrant corruption cases. The result represents the PP’s worst showing for 40 years in the region.
The defeat for the PP will be especially painful for Mariano Rajoy, who was strongly involved in the election campaign and was responsible for the appointment of a new regional leader of the Popular Party.
The United Left have also suffered in the latest polls, with the party now becoming the fifth largest in government. They have retained just 5 seats having been eclipsed by newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos. The shrinking in the vote for the United Left rules out the possibility of a continuation of the coalition, with five seats an insufficient number for the socialists to form a strong coalition.
The arrival of Podemos into the mix will challenge the primacy of the socialists on the left. Pablo Iglesias’ party is the rising star of the Spanish left, and despite some ambiguous policy prescriptions, the newcomer has unquestionably disturbed the political landscape.
Its 15 deputies in Andalusia are the great unknown arising out of this election. It is not yet known if the party would enter to a coalition with the socialists, who have baulked at some of the proposals that Podemos has advocated on a national basis.
The other surprise was the success of Ciudadanos, a new party that has picked up nine seats. The party attracted votes from the PP and PSOE and represents a new alternative, with a specific focus on growth.
In summary, Andalusians have forgiven the mistakes of the PSOE, punished Rajoy and the classical communists, and opened the door for two new forces-one from the left, the other from the centre. The vote sends a fresh message about the new political dynamic in Spain, underlining a desire to break with the dominant two-party system of the past. It highlights a new era of instability, but one that opens a new phase of opportunities for political renewal.