Sunday’s elections in Spain confirmed polling that projecting a massive drop for the liberal Ciudadanos and a massive surge for the far-right Vox. This was Spain’s fourth electoral encounter in four years but the political deadlock appears to be evolving, and yet not heading towards a resolution.
The far-right Vox more than doubled its number of seats, going from 24 seats in April to 52 on Sunday. Support for the far-right appears to have been boosted by the threat of Catalan secession.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez led the Socialists (PSOE) to a pyrrhic victory, with fewer sears than April and harder choices to make in terms of forming a government. PSOE got 120 seats on Sunday, compared to 123 in April. The Socialists’ main allies – the far-left Unidos Podemos – saw their electoral influence decrease from 45 seats in April to 37 on Sunday.
The magic number in a 350-seat parliament is 176 seats; in sum, the Socialists are 19 seats short of a majority.
The leader of Spain’s conservative People’s Party, Pablo Casado, said on Sunday that Spain “cannot wait” to form a government, begging the question of whether Madrid needs to form a broad centre-left-centre-right coalition of the kind seen in Germany. Casado improved his negotiating position significantly, leading his party to gain 88 seats, compared to 66 in April.
Sanchez said on Sunday that the Socialists would do their “duty” and form a government, but it is unclear whether that means. There two most likely options for Sanchez are either forming yet another minority government or trying to rally the liberal Ciudadanos along with several regional parties behind an overall centre-left government.
That is a tall order.
The leader of Spain’s centre-right Ciudadanos party, Albert Rivera, saw his party’s electoral influence crumble from 57 seats in April to just 10 on Sunday. The future of Ciudadanos is called into question and individual MPs may have different opinions as to their political future. At the same time, the surge of the far-right changes all calculations.