Spain’s far right doubles seats in hung parliament
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.