Nobody expected that in Spain: The left suffered a total debacle in the regional elections on Sunday – and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is calling for early parliamentary elections for July 23. Conservatives and right-wing populists are cheering and smelling the dawn.
Political earthquake in Spain: A few hours after a historic collapse of the left in regional and local elections, the socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced early parliamentary elections on July 23. The vote should not take place until the end of the year. “I take personal responsibility for the election results,” Sanchez said in a speech to the nation on Monday. As a result, Spain will take over the rotating EU Council presidency on July 1 with a battered and election-focused government. Sánchez, a beacon of hope for the left in Spain and Europe, is in danger of being voted out.
But what happened on Sunday in the fourth largest economy in the EU? Something that no opinion research institute had predicted to the extent. “The PP rolled over (Spain) like a tsunami,” headlined the well-known newspaper “El Mundo”. The conservative People’s Party (PP), which was still in crisis a year ago, won almost everywhere. In the future, she could govern twelve of the 17 Comunidades Autónomas – which roughly correspond to the German federal states. In addition, the Conservatives won in seven of the eight largest cities. This has never happened since the formation of the PP and PSOE after the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.
Spain: right-wing populists on the rise
However, in many places the PP is dependent on the support of the right-wing populists from Vox. So far, PP boss Alberto Núñez Feijóo has avoided the question of the extent to which they want to cooperate with the extremely controversial group. There is no so-called firewall to the right in Spain, as there is in Germany against the AfD. In some regions there is already cooperation PP-Vox.
Vox received a good seven percent of the votes in local elections nationwide and entered all regional parliaments – and could thus play a key role in the future. “We won’t give anything away,” warned party leader Santiago Abascal, referring to the talks with the PP. However, almost all analysts in Spain are convinced that neither party should have any qualms about preventing the formation of left-wing governments.
“My time is coming!” shouted Alberto Núñez Feijóo on Monday night in front of thousands of cheering supporters on the balcony of the party headquarters in Madrid with a view of the next election – which is now coming much earlier than expected. “The events are overtaking themselves,” summed up the state TV broadcaster RTVE.
Spain had come through the corona pandemic relatively well under the left-wing minority government. The economic situation is comparatively stable, also thanks to billions in aid from the EU. But unemployment is still high in European comparison. Inflation, the consequences of the Ukraine war and several affairs increasingly drove Sánchez into a corner.
For example, a new sexual criminal law proved to be a fiasco in the “super election year”. It should be the government’s flagship project. But suddenly it opened the cell doors prematurely for dozens of sex criminals – and also led to a heated argument within the first coalition government since the 1930s. This provided the opposition with plenty of ammunition.
Conservative PP wins absolute majorities in many regions
What does the political landscape in Spain look like before the new elections? In Madrid there was a double PP triumph. Regional head of government Isabel Díaz Ayuso and governing PP mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida won absolute majorities for the first time. It is said that Madrid is a gauge of the mood across the country. “The end of the “sanchismo” has been initiated!” announced Martínez-Almeida alongside Ayuso and Feijoó. All three jumped for joy.
Not only in Madrid, but also in other Comunidades Autónomas such as Valencia, Aragon, La Rioja and on the Balearic Islands with the holiday island of Mallorca, the PP won by a large margin in some cases. In the local elections, the PP won around 31.5 percent of all votes nationwide – 9.3 percentage points more than in 2019. The PSOE lost a good point and had to be content with just over 28 percent.
Sánchez initially did not say if he wanted to run again. His biggest problem is that the parties to the left of the PSOE, who have previously acted as coalition partners or supporters, are deeply divided. The left-wing coalition partner Unidas Podemos (UP) lost a large part of its voters on Sunday. “A tragedy for the progressives in Spain,” admitted UP spokesman Pablo Echenique on Spanish television on Monday.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.