April 17, 2024
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Spain’s right-wing parties fail to achieve the expected lead in the election | Spain

Spain’s conservative opposition party has won a narrow victory over the ruling socialists, but is unlikely to win an outright majority after a general election that raised fears of the far right entering government for the first time since the country returned to democracy after the death of General Franco five decades ago.

Although polls had consistently predicted that the conservative People’s Party (PP) would overtake the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) to claim an emphatic victory in Sunday’s election, early results quickly showed that the race was going to be much tighter.

By 1 local time, with 100% of the vote included, the PP had won 136 seats to the PSOE’s 122. The conservatives’ potential coalition partners in the right-wing Vox party had taken 33 seats – well down on the 52 they picked up in the last election – with PSOE allies in a distant fourth.

Most polls and projections predicted that, despite its victory, the PP would fall short of the clear majority of 176 seats needed in Spain’s 350-seat congress, and would seek to form a coalition with the far-right party. Such an alliance would leave Spain, which has just accepted the EU’s rotating presidency, the newest addition to a growing club of European countries where the far right has moved from the fringes to the mainstream – and often in power.

But the count showed that the political complexion of the next government is far from a foregone conclusion, with the left and right blocs running almost neck and neck in their race to get as close to 176 seats as possible. As Monday approached, the PP and Vox had secured 169 seats for the PSOE and 153 for Sumar, suggesting that Spain is engaged in weeks of negotiations and horse-trading as the rival camps explore their options for government.

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister – who gambled on the general election after the PSOE gambled in May’s regional and municipal elections – cast the poll as a stark choice between the forces of progress and the forces of reactionary conservatism. He argued that only the PSOE and the Sumar Alliance, including Podemos and led by his deputy prime minister and labor minister, Yolanda Díaz, could defend and deliver the progressive program he has been pursuing for the past four years.

Pedro Sánchez
Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister of Spain, votes in the elections. Photo: Juan Carlos Rojas/Shutterstock

Speaking late Sunday night, the leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, thanked those who helped his party win and said he intended to try to form a government as soon as possible.

“Our duty now is to stop a period of uncertainty in Spain,” he said. “As the candidate for the party that won the most votes, I believe it is my duty to open the dialogue as soon as possible and try to govern our country according to the results of the election and the victory of the election.”

Meanwhile, Sánchez said fondly that Spain’s far-right “reactionary” parties had failed at the polls.

“We have won more votes, more seats and a bigger share of the vote than four years ago,” he told the crowds gathered outside the PSOE headquarters in Madrid.

“The regressive reactionary bloc that tried to undo the progress of the last four years has failed.”

Díaz struck a similarly triumphant note, telling Sumar’s supporters: “We have won. We have a better country today. From tomorrow, we must keep the rights won and we are committed to doing so – more rights for women, LGBTI people and workers.”

Before the election, the PP and Vox repeatedly criticized Sánchez and his partners for being weak, opportunistic and too dependent on the Catalan and Basque separatist parties he relies on for support in parliament.

The leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, congratulated Feijóo on his victory but added: “I want to convey our worst news to many Spaniards: despite losing the election, Pedro Sánchez can block the formation of a new government. Even worse, even Pedro Sánchez could be invested as prime minister with the help of communists, [Catalan] independence supporters and terrorists.”

Although the PP had consistently led the polls and mounted an aggressive campaign, it suffered a weak final week as the focus shifted to Feijóo. He was already left looking very uncomfortable when his claims about the PP’s track record on pensions were false, but he was then criticized for the sexist element of an apparent reference to Díaz’s constitution.

By Friday, Feijóo had to answer renewed questions about his relationship in the 1990s with Marcial Dorado, a friend who was later convicted of drug trafficking, bribery and money laundering.

The PP leader, who was a senior politician in Galicia before becoming regional president between 2009 and last year, has always insisted that he had no reason to suspect that Dorado was involved in anything illegal and said he broke off contact with him as soon as he was accused of criminal offences.

The people of Alberto Núñez Feijóo
The People’s party Alberto Núñez Feijóo was stuck to create a majority in the vote. Photo: Oscar J Barroso/AFP7/Shutterstock

“It’s easier to find out about these things now that you have the internet and Google,” Feijóo said on Wednesday. Two days later, he accused his opponent of trying to smear him, adding that when he knew Dorado, he was “a smuggler. [but] never a drug trafficker”.

Feijóo urged Spaniards to vote “to bring our country back together” and said that, unlike Sánchez, no one could see him.

“I have no debts and no deals with anyone,” he told supporters in the Galician city of A Coruña on Friday. “I don’t have to answer to anyone but the Spanish people.”

The Ipsos poll for La Vanguardia this month found that the economy was the single biggest issue for voters, with 31% of those surveyed putting it at the top of their list. This was followed by unemployment (10%) and health care (9%). Immigration, one of Vox’s favorite talking points, was the most important issue for 2% of those who voted.

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