Spain’s far right dou­bles seats in hung par­lia­ment

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD -

looks likely to en­dure many more months of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty after the coun­try’s fourth elec­tion in as many years re­flected a wi­den­ing po­lit­i­cal chasm be­tween par­ties on the left and the right, with the far-right Vox party more than dou­bling its seats.

After Sun­day’s na­tional vote, no party has a clear man­date to gov­ern and a far-right party has be­come a ma­jor par­lia­men­tary player in Spain for the first time in decades.

Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez’s So­cial­ists won the most seats – 120 – but fell far short of a ma­jor­ity in the 350-seat cham­ber and will need to make deals on sev­eral fronts if they are to gov­ern.

Right-wing vot­ers, mean­while, flocked to Vox, giv­ing it 52 seats to be­come the par­lia­ment’s third-largest party, be­hind the So­cial­ists and the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party, which won 88 seats.

On the streets of Madrid, many peo­ple were scratch­ing their heads over what would hap­pen next.

“I think we are worse than be­fore, we are more di­vided,” said po­lice­man An­to­nio Pra­dos, 44. “I don’t know, there’s a pos­si­bil­ity to form a gov­ern­ment, but I don’t know how they will come up with the numbers.”

Mr Sanchez called the elec­tion after he failed to form a gov­ern­ment after the pre­vi­ous elec­tion in April – but won three seats fewer.

An­drew Dowl­ing, an ex­pert on con­tem­po­rary Span­ish pol­i­tics at Cardiff Univer­sity in Wales, said Mr Sanchez’s plan to come out with a stronger man­date had back­fired.

“The Span­ish So­cial­ist party made a ma­jor mis­cal­cu­la­tion in call­ing new elec­tions,” Mr Dowl­ing said.

Adding to his woes, his clos­est al­lies, the left-wing Pode­mos

party, fell from 42 to 35 seats.

Sun­day’s bal­lot also went badly for the right-of-cen­tre Cit­i­zens party, which cap­tured only 10 seats, down from 57 in April. Party leader Al­bert Rivera quit yes­ter­day after the de­ba­cle but was not the only per­son hurt by it.

Mr Sanchez, who will strug­gle to form a gov­ern­ment, has “fewer op­tions be­cause of the col­lapse of Cit­i­zens”, Mr Dowl­ing said.

Dis­putes over the in­de­pen­dence move­ment in Cat­alo­nia will con­tinue to fes­ter, with three Cata­lan sep­a­ratist par­ties win­ning a com­bined 23 seats. Yes­ter­day, rad­i­cal Cata­lan pro­test­ers blocked a ma­jor bor­der pass be­tween France and Spain and promised to keep it shut for three days.

In his vic­tory speech, Mr Sanchez promised again to “ob­tain a pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ment”.

The next step will be for par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to se­lect a house speaker in the com­ing weeks and for talks be­tween King Felipe VI and party lead­ers to be­gin so that one of them, most likely Mr Sanchez, will be called on to try to form a gov­ern­ment.

Right-wing pop­ulist and anti-mi­grant lead­ers in Europe, mean­while, cel­e­brated Vox’s strong show­ing.

Marine Le Pen, who heads France’s Na­tional Rally party, con­grat­u­lated Vox leader San­ti­ago Abas­cal, say­ing his im­pres­sive work “is al­ready bear­ing fruit after only a few years”.

Vox’s surge and the gains by the Pop­u­lar Party cap­i­talised on Span­ish na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ment stirred up by the So­cial­ists’ han­dling of the se­ces­sion­ist con­flict in Cat­alo­nia.

Many right-wingers were also not pleased with the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment’s ex­huma­tion of dic­ta­tor Fran­cisco Franco’s re­mains so that he could no longer be ex­alted in a public place.

Many Cata­lans were an­gered by the Supreme Court’s prison sen­tences last month for nine Cata­lan politi­cians and ac­tivists who led a 2017 drive for the re­gion’s in­de­pen­dence. The rul­ing trig­gered daily protests in Cat­alo­nia.

Cap­i­tal Eco­nomics, a Lon­don re­search com­pany, said it ex­pected no short-term eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties after the vote be­cause Spain’s econ­omy had re­mained healthy de­spite the past four years of po­lit­i­cal grid­lock.

But it said that deep, longterm eco­nomic re­forms are needed to keep Spain com­pet­i­tive in its labour mar­kets and pen­sion sys­tem, and the dead­lock has kept those ef­forts on hold.

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