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Parliamentary elections in Spain: Exciting head-to-head race

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Parliamentary elections in Spain: Exciting head-to-head race

Tension in Spain: The right-wing camp is just ahead of the party of the incumbent prime minister. Are right-wing populists now also moving into the government palace?

The opposition conservative People’s Party PP is on the verge of success in the early parliamentary elections in Spain. According to projections based on counting a good 83 percent of the votes, the PP can hope for 135 seats in parliament in Madrid. Although Vox suffered losses and only got 33 seats, paradoxically it is likely to increase its political influence significantly.

Whether the two parties together would achieve the absolute majority of 176 seats was initially questionable on the evening of the election. The PSOE came in second with 123 seats. Its left-wing partner, the newly founded electoral alliance Sumar, came in fourth with 31 seats.

However, the race initially turned out to be closer than surveys and forecasts had predicted. Four years ago, the PP only got 89 seats, while the PSOE had 120 MPs.

Spain to the right

As they are likely to miss out on an absolute majority (176 seats), the Conservatives may need to work with the right-wing populists from Vox when trying to form a government. They were initially in third place with 33 seats, ahead of the newly formed electoral alliance Sumar (31).

Sánchez has so far led a minority government together with the left-wing Podemos party. However, Podemos has since joined Sumar.

There is no so-called firewall to the right in Spain, as there is in Germany against the AfD. In some regions, both parties already govern together. Vox is drumming for cashing in on leftist prestige projects in the areas of social affairs, the protection of minorities, the environment and coming to terms with the dictatorship, and for cracking down on separatists.

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Weeks of negotiations lie ahead

Whether the two parties together would achieve the absolute majority of 176 seats was initially questionable on the evening of the election. If that is not the case, they will have to rely on the support or at least the toleration of smaller parties in the “Congreso de los Diputados”.

With that still uncertain, the EU’s fourth-largest economy, which currently holds the presidency of the Union, is sure to face weeks of negotiations. A “bloqueo”, a political blockade, of the kind that happened twice in a row after the 2015 and 2019 elections and required a second round of voting in each case, cannot be ruled out.

If the PP and Vox were to form an alliance, it would be the first time since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 that a right-wing party would have direct influence on government action.

Mutual allegations

During the election campaign, Sánchez emphasized Spain’s relatively good overall economic situation and social achievements after Corona and despite the Ukraine war. He accused the PP of possible cooperation with Vox at the national level. A PP-Vox government would lead the country into a “dark tunnel” back in time, Sánchez warned.

Feijóo countered that the country was fed up with its government and wanted a change of direction. Many people can only make ends meet with their income and the national debt has gotten out of hand.

In addition, the minority government in parliament relied on the votes of separatist parties and made illegal concessions in return. Feijóo criticized that the government had achieved the opposite of what it wanted with a botched reform of sexual criminal law. Instead of protecting women better, dozens of sex criminals had to be released early from prison.

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Catalonia as a campaign issue

Vox boss Santiago Abascal wants to campaign for the abolition of the far-reaching autonomy rights guaranteed by the constitution if he participates in the government. His announcement that there would be worse clashes in Catalonia than in 2017 during the riots over the independence referendum as soon as he sat at the cabinet table caused heads to shake in the economically strong region in the north-east of the country.

“This is election campaign noise, complete nonsense, another attempt to scare people,” said political scientist José Luis Martí of the German Press Agency. This is typical of the “extreme right”.

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