Monday, 25 May 2015

My thoughts on recent Spanish regional elections

Yesterday, most of the regions of Spain (except Andalusia, which had already held its regional election earlier, and Catalonia, whose early election will not be until September) held their elections.

The results, as predicted, represented heavy losses for the ruling People's Party (PP) and substantial losses for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). Crucially, the People's Party has not been able to poll well enough to get a single-party majority in any region; such was the price PP paid over not only its deepening of the recession in Spain but also its draconian security law (which for example subjects people protesting outside the Cortes to fines as high as 500,000 Euros) As did happen in last year's European elections, Podemos made substantial gains-although not as spectacular as recent opinion polls were predicting, and they took a large number of votes from United Left (IU) who lost representation in several autonomous communities, largely due to them falling just below crucial electoral thresholds (sometimes 3%, sometimes 5%) which given the tightness of electoral contests this time around will in fact leave more voters unrepresented than usual. Meanwhile, the Citizens' Party also took substantial numbers of votes from more centrist PP voters in many places, but Vox universally failed in winning over enough hardline conservative voters. The centrist and liberal Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) failed to gain additional representation and in fact lost all the regional seats it was defending. This is probably because of Podemos and Ciudadanos attracting many undecided protest voters previously supportive of UPyD and because of UPyDs failure to oppose the crippling austerity conditions in Spain, where unemployment is still a very high 24% (more than twice that of neighbouring France, and over four times that of the UK).

Even in Castille-La Mancha, where a controversial alteration to that state's constitution reduced the number of seats to 33, making it very difficult indeed for non-mainstream parties to enter the autonomous parliament, Podemos won 3 seats, enough to deprive both the PP and PSOE of a single-party majority there. The major stories were the strong left-wing success in the capital, Madrid (where a Podemos-led coalition, Ahora Madrid, won 20 seats, only one less than the People's Party), Valencia, and most notably Barcelona. The victory of campaigner Ada Colau, who can now become mayor of Barcelona with the help of Republican Left of Catalonia and the Popular Unity Candidates list (who like Podemos also gained seats on the city council), was probably the most notable story of these elections, and I believe it will be another positive step for the people of Catalonia.

The PP have been heavily shaken by the results, and so has the PSOE, but the battle is not yet over for left-wing progressives and fans of participatory democracy in Spain, with the Spanish general election still months away and with Podemos not having reclaimed the poll lead it briefly held regularly from October 2014 to March 2015-having just newly entered those regional parliaments, Podemos needs to practice what it preaches, whether it has 'kingmaker' status or not, and keep moving onwards and upwards.


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