Spain: Early Elections Due To Coalition Exhaustion?

Pedro mascarilla españitaSpanish PM Pedro Sánchez at the Parliament debate

Fernando González Urbaneja | The first reaction of the socialists after the Madrid elections was to distance themselves, almost indifferent, with the argument that Madrid is not Spain. That was the end of it. But it did not hold water. Third in Galicia, opposition in Catalonia, minority in the Basque Country, opposition in Andalusia… and third in Madrid. So much for a governing party. And too much to sustain the coalition that governs Spain.

In the Socialists’ favour is the fact that a vote of no confidence is highly unlikely. That said, their partners may be tempted to bring forward the elections in order to re-deal the cards and compose a different parliamentary map.

The milestones for the coming months which will determine the legislature include four scenarios:

The main one is the pandemic, the success of vaccination and the effects of the ending of the state of alarm. A new wave of contagions would leave the government in a very bad position in the eyes of the public, with a loss of electoral expectations.

The most important of these has to do with the economic and social recovery that must come hand in hand with European aid and its proper use. This is the government’s gamble for winning the next elections. It has opted for direct and unilateral control of the programme that will materialise European aid. This is despite the fact the consensus of experts recommends the path of parliamentary consensus, in line with the model of the transition and the Moncloa pacts, which were successful in emerging from other crises.

The third scenario is called Catalonia. Sánchez opted for a pact with the pro-independence supporters to first deflate the conflict and then negotiate a settlement, albeit a provisional one for a few years. The Catalan case affects Socialist voting intentions in Catalonia and the rest of Spain and, finally, Sánchez’s future at the head of the party.

The fourth is taking place in Parliament, with the fate of the laws that are currently being processed. The government has in its favour the 2021 Budget, which has been approved, although its execution is far from what was planned. So far it has managed to push through the votes in Congress and the Senate, but with slim majorities that are no longer guaranteed when the legislature has not yet reached the halfway point.

In short, a weak government that has in its favour the weakness of an opposition that after the Madrid elections has recovered its identity and opportunities. A discreet but firm return of a bipartisanship that did not go badly for Spanish society for several decades.

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.