Yesterday the Spanish people went to the polls and the result shook Spain. Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party lost their parliamentary majority but more importantly the two-party system of Spain collapsed spectacularly. The rise of new political parties that oppose the political consensus of Madrid and the orthodoxy of the Eurozone have had a significant impact on the electoral landscape.
The results of the Senate elections were largely the same as before, so the caveat to this would be that the People’s Party still has a majority in the Senate, which would make any left-wing progress more difficult. Nevertheless the elections to the Congress of Deputies illustrates that the era of two-party rule in Spain has ended. This point is proven by the fact that both the ruling People’s Party and PSOE, the main opposition party, had a noticeable drop in seats and vote share.
The People’s Party, the governing centre-right party, took 28.72% of the vote, winning 123 seats. PSOE, the centre-left opposition, took 22,01%, winning 90 seats. Podemos, a populist left-wing party that didn’t exist two years ago, took 69 seats with 20.66% of the vote. The Ciudadanos, a broadly liberal party that was founded in 2006, won 40 seats with 13.93% of the vote. The remaining 28 seats were won by other parties including a left-wing electoral coalition and an assortment of separatist parties including the ERC, a left-wing Catalan nationalist party.
Why is this important result important, and what does it mean? This result is significant as the electoral arithmetic do not favour the People’s Party; the only group that would realistically go into coalition with Mariano Rajoy’s deputies is the Ciudadanos however this party have campaigned on tackling corruption. Although Rajoy’s party is not synonymous with corruption, corruption is widely thought to be affiliated with senior figures in the People’s Party. Because of this it is likely that the next government will be influenced by the anti-austerity party Podemos.
Because of the reality of the result, a role for Podemos in the next government is almost guaranteed. This is what is so significant. The Eurozone leaders, including heads of state and leaders of the ECB, treated Greece very badly. For people who are knowledgeable in the field of finance, the question becomes why the chose to do so? The answer was simple: contagion. Not economic contagion, political contagion.
The ECB and the Eurozone is run by a group of neo-liberal capitalists and the European Parliament is dominated by people who also agree with this ideology. The harsh treatment of Greece was to punish the Greek people into submission, and also to send a message to other countries that may flirt with anti-austerity parties. Spain has ignored this warning and the anti-austerity movement has more supporters within the Eurozone.
Spain, as Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has pointed out, has a very different economic situation to that of Greece, and its relationship to the Eurozone is also different. Spain is the fourth largest Eurozone economy and as a result the French and the Germans cannot be as harsh with Spain because their economic performance is more reliant on Spain than it is on Greece. Spain can now be a positive force to reform Europe and the Eurozone to be more focussed on the people’s needs rather than those of corporations and financial institutions.
The Spanish elections have marked another change in the political dynamics of Europe. Centre-right parties in countries that have had austerity inflicted upon them are falling from power and leftists arguing that it can be different are gaining ground. The next stop for this movement would be in Ireland where Sinn Féin’s rising popularity and the decline of the Labour Party could mean that the party may have the balance of power in any post-election negotiations. We can only hope that this result in Spain spurs own our comrades in Ireland and elsewhere so that we can build an EU that puts the welfare of the citizenry ahead of capitalistic gain.