Stockholm (NordSIP) – In a speech where he highlighted the social and economic victories of his government, the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, called a snap general election for 28 April 2019. The minority socialist government came to power in June 2018, following a no-confidence vote of the Popular Party (PP) government, which became overwhelmed by a national corruption scandal known as Caso Gürtel.
The left-wing PSOE only holds 85 of the 350 in the Spanish Congress of the deputies and relies on the support of deputies from anti-austerity Podemos and the Catalan ERC and PDeCAT to pass legislation. The decision to call for the national elections follows a failure of Pedro Sánchez government to pass the 2019 budget on February 13. The failure was understood to be caused by the deadlock in negotiations between the Catalan parties and the government. The latter appear to have made their support contingent on increased autonomy for the region and leniency for its leaders who are facing prosecution over the 2017 Catalan declaration of independence.
The latest polling suggests a right-wing coalition government is theoretically the most likely outcome. Even though PSOE has been the dominant party in voter intention surveys since the middle of 2018, present polling suggests neither of the two main parties will have enough support to form a self-sufficient government.
As a result, and because most polls have the two parties within or close to the margin of error, government formation will depend on the ability and willingness of these two parties to form a coalition with supporters in parliament. While PSOE will naturally seek alliances with Podemos, PP is more likely to ally itself with Ciudadanos. The wild cards on each side are the independentist Basque and Catalan parties and the Eurosceptic right-wing populist party, Vox. The latest polling from Celeste-Tel, conducted between February 4-8, suggests that, if PP and Ciudadanos are willing to negotiate with Vox, they will have an absolute majority of 51.2% of the votes.
Pablo Casado, the leader of PP, has displayed some willingness to pursue this alliance, and Ciudadanos’ Albert Rivera’s ambiguity seems to leave the door open for such an alliance. However, internal party resistance may undermine such efforts.
The outcome of the election will provide some insight into the potential outcome of the European Parliament elections in May where many fear a rise in the representation of eurosceptic nationalist parties that may threaten the cohesiveness and future of the European project.
Whatever the result, Spain’s upcoming election is sure to further cement the fragmentation of European political party systems and the fragilisation of traditional political majorities in the continent.