In December, Spain went to the polls to decide the composition of the Cortes Generales however this resulted in an election with no clear winner. After months of wrangling and negotiations, the time expired and new elections had to be called. The results are in, and nothing really changed. Spain’s second elections threw up results that still leave all parties and potential coalitions short of forming a government. Indeed for leftists, this election was a step backwards, and we need to re-evaluate our strategy in order to make substantive electoral progress in the near future.
After its second election in six months, Spain remains in political paralysis. The Popular Party (PP) won 137 seats, making them the clear winners of the election. Although the PP increased their number of seats by 14, the party is still well short of the 176 seats required to form a majority government. The other centre-right party, the Ciudadanos, lost ground to the PP and was returned with 32 Deputies, 8 fewer than in December. As a consequence of this electoral arithmetic, a prospective coalition of the PP and Ciudadanos would only be a total of 169 centre-right Deputies.
On the other hand the prospects of the Left look just as, or even more, bleak. The centre-left party PSOE won 85 seats, losing 5 seats to the PP, and the far-left coalition Unidos Podemos maintained its total number of 71 seats. In total a left-of-centre coalition would only have 156 seats. The devil is now in the detail as the fate of any coalition is dependent upon the whims of the smaller parties, all of which are regional nationalists. This is why I believe that, despite the diminished number of left-of-centre Deputies, it is more likely that PSOE and Unidos Podemos will be forming the next government.
For the last two years the election of Catalan secessionists in Barcelona has shaped the Spanish political discourse. The issue of Catalan independence from Spain has prompted strong rebuttals from Mariano Rajoy and other senior members of the PP, and this is what can be used to win over these smaller parties. The PP have aligned themselves as staunchly pro-Spanish unionism, which is a perfectly reasonable ideological viewpoint. However PSOE, who also support unionism, could promise to hold a referendum on the issue as such an act could be justified on democratic grounds and would mark PSOE out as different from the PP. Unidos Podemos have already campaigned on a platform of allowing Catalonia to have a referendum and this would win over up to 17 Deputies.
Along with this act, PSOE and Unidos Podemos should promise to decentralise power away from Madrid as much as possible in order to gain the support of other regional parties. Although the ultimate end goal of these regional parties is secession, Catalonia is uniquely placed to achieve political independence. Catalonia is the richest region of Spain and could easily economically sustain itself. Other regions of the country that have secessionist representatives in Madrid require additional economic development before questions about economic viability can be batted away in a referendum campaign. This being the case, other secessionist regions often call for greater decentralisation, and PSOE and Unidos Podemos should promise such a devolution of power. The PP have a track record of ignoring secessionists or being actively hostile to them, and therefore PSOE should be bold and make these commitments.
The result on Sunday was not what people like myself would have wanted, but there are positives that can be taken. The PP did not win a majority and even if they teamed up with the ideologically similar Ciudadanos, they would still not be able to form a government. In this situation PSOe and Unidos Podemos should come together with the various secessionist parties, most of whom are left-of-centre, and transform Spanish politics. Now is the time for some radical action, unfortunately it’s in the hands of centrists.