Spain, 28th April 2019 – The general elections for Spanish Parliament had fairly good voter turnout (75.7%, higher than the previous election in 2016). However, there were some surprises in store for the main parties up for reelection, and the parliamentary dynamic was thrown into a precarious position.
Though the left wing (the socialist PSOE party and Unidos Podemos party) certainly holds the most power within the halls of Congress, no party has enough seats in the Parliament to establish a true majority, and no possible alliance between any faction could change this; even a unified left or right wing would not amass enough seats to hold the majority. It is the minor parties, particularly the Catalan independentist movement, Erc, that seem to be the critical element.
The right wing seems to have lost importance altogether, with its flagship party PP (Partido Popular) facing its worst crisis ever, gaining only 66 seats this election in comparison to a whopping 137 in the 2016. On the other hand, the moderate party, Ciudadanos (CS), showed a significant improvement this election cycle, their newly won 57 seats up from 32 in 2016.
The results for far-right Vox is perhaps the greatest surprise, with 10% of votes and 24 new party officials entering Parliament for the first time ever. In 2016 they only obtained 0.2%.
Other parties – The smaller parties gained altogether 38 seats: 15 and 7 for the Catalan independentist movements ERC (Esquerra Republicana) and Jxcat, 6 for PNV (Basque National Party), 4 for Basque EH BIL (Euskal Herria Bildu), 2 for CC (Coalicion Canaria) and Na+, and one each for COMP and PRC.
The majority puzzle – PSOE had a tough run in 2016, winning only 85 seats, and tried to replace their leader Pedro Sanchez. However, he managed to maintain leadership and gained support both in the left and centre through a moderate-left approach to his politics, winning him the position of Prime Minister and pushing PSOE to their most recent, surprising results in the election: 123 seats, a total much higher than any other competing party this year. UP, led by Pablo Iglesias, has lately lost many votes. Together with PSOE, their sum of seats is 165: not enough for political majority, which requires a total of 176 seats.
In terms of the right wing, PP has a new leader, Pablo Casado, replacing Mariano Rajoy (who had the role of Prime Minister until 2018, after which he was replaced by Sanchez). Casado has given the party a strong right-wing identity, starkly distancing itself from the political centre. Currently, PP and CS together reach 123 seats; majority is very far away even with Vox’s 24 seats, which would amount to 156 – which is still less than the 165 of PSOE and UP mentioned above. Another alternative could be found in an alliance between PSOE and CS, which would total 180 seats, but the CS leader Albert Rivera has firmly rejected this possibility.
The role of the nationalists – In the autonomous provinces of Catalonia and Basque countries, the strongest parties are respectively the indepentists of ERCand the right-wing nationalists of PNV.
Given their low possibility of carrying out the other scenarios, the bigger role in the unification of parliamentary factions could be played by the nationalist movements themselves, which could give the critical support needed for any bloc to achieve majority status.
Sanchez’s choice – As PSOE is definitely the biggest force in the Parliament, Pedro Sanchez will most likely be re-elected as a Prime Minister and will have to broker these parliamentary dynamics. As both Prime Minister and leader of the PSOE, Sanchez must find a way to get his party to the majority in Parliament, and he has the unique power-holding position to be the one to negotiate with all involved factions. He seems to have three major possibilities:
– First, an alliance with CS. The two parties would reach 180 seats, making it the easiest way to settle things. As stated before, though, this is the most unlikely solution: in fact, neither PSOE supporters nor CS leader Albert Rivera are in favor of this compromise.
– Second, an alliance with UP and nationalists. A bloc comprised of PSOE, UP, PNV, CC and other regional parties would hold 175 seats, just one seat away from the majority they need. It is not the most safe scenario, but it’s the only way for Sanchez to keep ERC and Catalan parties out of the majority.
– Third, PSOE alone. Probably the hardest route to power – PSOE would need to find all possible allies outside the Parliament. However, the UP leader Iglesias assures that his support is absolutely necessary for any left-wing-led government in the country.
Spain and EU – Both the main left and right forces (PSOE, PP,CS) and the main nationalist force that could join the government (PNV) are pro-EU parties, thus Sanchez’s role as Prime Minister will hopefully maintain good relationships with Spain and EU (and the other EU nations as well). The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is very satisfied with the election results and claims that “the majority of Spanish people clearly opted for pro-Europe parties.” As announced by EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, Juncker will send a letter to Sanchez to congratulate and invite him to form a stable and pro-Europe government.
Updated May 1st 2019