A break with business as usual
On December 2015, general elections were held in Spain. They were the twelfth since the democratic transition, and over 36 million citizens exercised their right to vote. In line with the polls, Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) obtained a simple majority, pocketing 123 seats, followed by Pedro Sanchez’s socialist party (PSOE) with 90 seats. As anticipated, two emerging parties – Podemos (Pablo Iglesias) and Ciudadanos (Albert Rivera) – got into parliament with 42 and 40 seats, respectively. The rest of the seats mostly went to nationalist parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
Both traditional parties have reaped support from the middle-age to elderly population. However, their support varied depending on the region: PSOE’s voters mostly come from the less developed South and some industrial areas in decline while voters of PP come from the richer and more conservative North. The new parties were particularly successful among young educated citizens in urban settings.
The emergence of the two new parties caused PP to lose a third of its votes in the last elections and PSOE to score its worst result in the party’s democratic history. The emerging leaders have long demanded end to the two party turn-politics to make way for more pluralism and innovative ways of doing politics. While there was great enthusiasm before the elections, especially among younger generations, it is not true that bipartisanship has been completely defeated. Both PP and PSOE have weathered the punishment by their voter base relatively well, given that both parties have been entangled in countless corruption scandals and have not brought forward solutions to economic inequality as well as increasing pressures arising from Catalan secessionism.
Nevertheless, these elections will be remembered as a break with business as usual and all parties will have to commit to arduous consensus-building in order to keep the country running – even if that means crossing lines drawn in the sand during the campaign preceding the polls.
Possible Party Alignment
After the uncertain results the government has begun to stumble. This political fiasco is not only due to the complicated majority situation of the elections, but also due to the parties’ unwillingness to compromise. Thus, the results of Spain’s general elections last year have aroused several debates considering the great variety of combinations forming an absolute majority in Congress.
The vote abstention might lead to a re-election of the PSOE. As a consequence, Rajoy could easily bag a majority. In terms of figures, a left-wing alliance between the socialists with Podemos and smaller parties might represent another coalition. However, PSOE-leaders regard this as “risky”. In addition to this, Spain’s socialists (PSOE) have rejected a coalition with Rajoy’s conservative party Partido Popular (PP). Pedro Sánchez, head of PSOE, claimed: “We will not support the PP as Spain’s leading party with Mariano Rajoy as the government’s head.”
The most obvious alliance is between the left and Podemos, including the United Left, forming a tripartite party. Even if the tripartite coalition may bring a breath of fresh air into the government, it would also signify a shift to the left. Things will remain demanding and exciting in the attempt of forming Spain’s new government policy.
Will there be a new election?
The most widespread view among politicians and citizens is that repeating elections is unlikely to help anyone. This third possibility would further worsen the image that Spaniards have of their political class. Tired of corruption scandals and empty speeches it is likely that Spaniards would stay away from the polls and few people would change their choice of party. Moreover, new elections would imply that is was the Spanish people who had made the mistake to choose a fragmented parliament rather than imply that the results were the fruit of a changing pattern in Spanish politics.
The last opinion polls forecast that the only party benefitting from a repeat election would be the challenger Podemos. PSOE has the most to lose. Therefore, this scenario would take the country politics to a zero-sum game in which the challenger parties (Podemos and Ciudadanos) may attract more unhappy voters, but there would not actually be a significant change. As a result, no clear winner…again.
Furthermore, repeating elections would mean an important waste of economic resources. The cost of having elections is estimated at € 170 million for the public budget, and political parties spend roughly € 25 million. It seems that the only winners would be the advertising firms.
Given this, the more reasonable way to deal with the current deadlock is a grand coalition as it has been done in other European countries with reasonably satisfactory results.