Now Is The Time To Break Spain’s Political Deadlock

spain elections

One of the effects of the long, deep crisis has been the redrawing of the political map in Spain, as well as in other European countries, but these new balances need to mature and consolidate. The process is underway, but the destination has not been written down.  Over the last few years we have witnessed the confusion of the European social democrats. They have gone from being the dominant parties in government to participating in coalitions or residual parties or in those which have disappeared (in Italy and Greece) or in groups which are looking for some sort of identity as is the case in the UK or Spain. The conservative parties, with their different definitions or sentiments, have preserved the fidelity of a large part of their voters. But they have seen new formations appear on the right with a clear populist bias, which are pushing them in the direction of adventures like Cameron’s referendum or towards a more conservative line to avoid leaving any gaps.

They are throwing our votes away

In Spain, the right is solid around the Popular Party, with an electoral base of about 7 million voters, allowing it to reach 25-30% of the vote (depending on the amount of abstentions) to become the biggest parliamentary group. A good result insufficient to govern the country, but sufficient to ensure there is no alternative left-wing government. The outcome is deadlock, with no means of agreeing formulas to govern the country. This has ended up with the elections being repeated so that voters can solve the dilemma, enabling another balance of forces to unblock a political map which is out of control.

At the beginning of May, the hypothesis to which analysts were giving most credence is that the results of the June 26 elections will be very like those of six months ago. And that the XII legislature will have a similar composition to the former one. That means that the party leaders would find themselves this summer at similar crossroads to the one last December. This hypothesis is threatened by these two variables: abstention and a change in the intention to vote.

The June electoral offering is hardly any different from December’s: the same leaders, the same proposals, the same speeches…The only variable is the coalition between Podemos and Izquierda Unida baptised Unidos Podemos. A supreme ensemble which aims to dislodge the PSOE from its position as the dominant left-wing party throughout the democracy. If this happened, it would neither facilitate nor simplify governance. We can have a repetition of the same deadlock between the right and the left as happened mid-December, without any possibility of mainstreaming. It’s not clear that the new left-wing coalition will be able to combine the votes of the parties they represent, increasing their chances at the polls. A coalition like the one in Portugal doesn’t add up now, amongst other reasons because its numbers are trying to assert their authority to encroach on their partner’s space. This is too dangerous a game for the socialists.

The other hypothesis, that of the great German coalition between the traditional parties with experience in government, was rejected outright by the socialist leader at the start of the electoral campaign. And in such emphatic terms that he did not agree to open even exploratory negotiations with Rajoy’s PP. The distance which Pedro Sanchez has put between himself and the PP is very deep and surprising, inasmuch as the PP and the PSOE agreed on a substantial part of the current laws and sustained a long phase of political stability, which is now a victim of the crisis and getting bad press.


About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.