Monday, 21 December 2015

My analysis of the recent Spanish general election


Yesterday's general election in Spain was quite sensational, particularly for the breakthrough by Podemos and its allies. Although Podemos did not achieve first place despite their strong performance in opinion polls, they managed to win a total of 69 seats, six of which I am proud to say will go to the Spanish Greens, Equo, who have been running joint lists with them. Given the dominance of the 'People's Party' and the 'Spanish Socialist Workers Party' during the current period of Spanish democracy (i.e. from 1975 onwards), this is a historic breakthrough.

Despite still topping the poll, the People's Party led by Mariano Rajoy was the clear loser in these elections, losing 1/3 of its seats and more importantly its majority in the Spanish Congress. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party surprisingly only lost 20 seats, due to the rise of Podemos, but it still recorded its worst ever election result. Notably, the PP and PSOE only polled 50.73% between them (compared to 73.8% in 2011!), which forms a decisive crack in two-party politics in Spain, which has somehow persisted despite proportional representation.

Podemos' rise also came at the expense of United Left, the former prominent left-wing party in Spain. IU lost 9 of its 11 seats, leaving it with just two deputies, both in Madrid, although by running with Podemos in Catalonia it has maintained representation there. Attempts by the Spanish government to block Catalonia's independence referendum hardened the resolve of left-wing nationalists, as the Republican Left of Catalonia trebled its seat total despite Podemos also running. The left-wing Basque nationalists were not so fortunate, however, as Euskadi Herria Bildu (EHB) lost 5 of their 7 seats, and the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party actually gained a seat despite a slight loss in vote share terms. The Galician nationalist bloc lost both of its seats, again due to Podemos' rise, even though Podemos' left-wing policies are not as courting of independence movements in Spain as I feel they ought to be.

Elsewhere, the Ciudadanos (C's) Party managed a substantial rise, mostly at the expense of PP, winning 40 seats; however, since the Ciudadanos Party have for now ruled out a coalition with the PP (particularly because of how far PP has been lurching to the right under Senor Rajoy's tenure with its draconian law on protest, amongst other things), their rise will just be another crack in two-party politics in Spain. The Union Progress and Democracy Party (UPyD) ended up losing almost 9/10ths of its vote share and all five seats it once had, probably due to the rise of the C's and divisions within UPyD itself; it even finished behind Spain's animal rights party which did not win any seats either. The other good news about this election is that turnout increased and that invalid and blank votes were substantially down from the 2011 elections-it is easier to cast a valid and meaningful vote when real and meaningful choices exist in elections.

However, there appear to be at present no viable coalitions which could emerge from this result, due to PP and PSOE being unwilling to work with each other, Podemos not wanting to play 'second fiddle' to PSOE and the C's not wanting to work with PP (and presumably not PSOE either). I believe the nationalist parties stand to be the kingmakers at present, because if they do not help form a government, new elections will have to occur soon as was the case in Greece in 2012 when SYRIZA first rose to the forefront.


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