Spain goes to the polls for the second time in six months
Spain is going to the polls again just over six months after the last election.
On 20th December 2015 the centre-right People’s Party (PP – Partido Popular) dropped 64 seats to take 123 seats and lost their overall control of parliament. In the election today all 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies (lower house) are for grabs and 208 of the 266 seats in the upper house or Senate.
The People’s Party needs an additional 53 seats to regain control of parliament. That seems unlikely; in December they won 28.7% of the vote and opinion polls are giving them about 28% support at the moment.
It was their dramatic drop in December that caused so many problems in the following months. With their main opponents the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) also losing seats, dropping 20 seats to take 90 seats neither of the two big parties were able to cobble together a coalition. If the opinion polls are correct then that will happen again today; the PSOE are on 21.8% support, down from 22% in December.
Two new parties gained tremendously in December to create the political impasse in forming a government. Podemos (now known as Unidos Podemos) is a left-wing alliance between the old Podemos who contested for the first time in December and won 69 seats and the United Left who won two seats. In December Podemos took 24.5% of the vote and the opinion polls put them on 24% this time. Critically Podemos supports Catalan independence which stopped them from joining a centre-left coalition.
The other new party which won 40 seats in December was Citizens (C – Ciudadanos). More centrist they originate from Catalonia and are adamantly anti-Catalan nationalism so wouldn’t join any government of which Podemos was a part. In December they won 13.9% of the vote and the opinion polls now put them on 15.2%. They might be potential partners for the People’s Party but even then the two parties wouldn’t have enough seats for a majority.
The other sticking point has been Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the People’s Party. Other parties have made it clear that whilst he remains they will not join a coalition with the PP.
There are 36,518,100 eligible voters of whom 1,920,256 live abroad and the 22,953 polling stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
Along with the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union (EU) the continent doesn’t need an inconclusive election in Spain, although the fears from Brexit could help the People’s Party gain more seats as people vote for security. Elsewhere Greece looks in trouble with its finances again, the Italian government suffered a setback in local elections last weekend and France is mired by strikes which could escalate. The European Union has never looked closer to breakup than now.