Why the Left needs to get ten points ahead of the Right to get absolute majority in Spain

However, the Spanish political landscape is intricate. A victory for Podemos would not have to translate into a lefty government. As the chart above shows (hat tip to Politikon), the left would need to obtain around 44 percent of the votes in an election to get absolute majority in Parliament. For the right, 34 percent of the ballots would be enough.

The reason is that the Spanish electoral system is biased in favor of sparsely populated areas that tend to vote conservative. Big cities, where the left is dominant, have lower representation. Not only that: the areas with lower population are closer to a winner-takes-all system, whereas those with more voters have an almost proportional one. That, again, works against the Left.

In Spain, is not that unusual for a political party to win the vote and lose the elections by a significant margin. It happened in Catalonia in 1999 and in 2003. On both occasions, the Socialists got more votes than the Conservative nationalists of CiU, but in the end got four seats less. The US is not the only country where a candidate can win by losing (as George W. Bush showed in 2000).

The situations described in this graph could, of course, change. So far, one of the Left parties—the Communist-dominated Izquierda Unida, or United Left—is disappearing, being ‘eaten alive’ by Podemos. And the combination of the two lefty parties—Podemos and the Socialists—reach twenty points more than the Conservative Popular Party. However, even Podemos’s 38 percent of the vote is not enough to get absolute majority in Parliament. The corollary is that the next government in Spain will be probably a left-wing alliance. But, with such an intricate electoral law, it is way too early to make forecasts.

About the Author

Pablo Pardo
Pablo Pardo is Washington DC correspondent of El Mundo. Journalist especialized in International Economics and Politics.

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