Spain's June 26 Elections: Groundhog Day

Article published on Aug. 16, 2016
Article published on Aug. 16, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Spain breaks with the polls and repeats results very similar to those of the December elections. Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) emerges stronger, but agreements involving more than two parties to form a government will continue to be needed.

Spanish citizens went to the polls again six months later, and they did it to validate opinions which they had already expressed last December 20. Spain wants agreements, given that in order to form a government the collaboration of, at least, three parties is still necessary. However, these elections have a clear winner, the People’s Party (PP), whose number of deputies has increased by 14 seats, at the expense of the emerging party Ciudadanos (Citizens). This piece of information has surprised the polls, as have the 71 seats won by Unidos Podemos (United We Can), a result just like that in December, despite the fact that public opinion polls claimed that it could overtake the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and take second place.

Have the Spanish changed since December 20? Aside from the shift of votes from Ciudadanos to the PP, the image of the electoral result offers us a similar panorama. Two blocks (right and left) which must reach agreements between them to form a government. The good results achieved by Mariano Rajoy suggest that he is the favourite to be President, although the socialist candidate, Pedro Sánchez, has not been ruled out of the race for this post. It should not be forgotten that all parties opposed the PP in its brief last term in office, because of which Rajoy faces a task all the less complex. An unwritten rule indicates that it is the party who receives the most votes who must initiate the round of engagements, something which is expected to happen this July.

Spain’s very own Groundhog Day leads many to question if this repeat of elections was necessary. Up to the same level of participation as in December (69%) has been recorded this time round. What seems clear is that the beneficiary of these past 6 months of waiting has been the People’s Party, whilst the polls have been revealed as ineffective in predicting the electoral result. Everyone was talking about the growth of the new coalition Unidos Podemos in contrast to the PSOE. Finally, the strategy to join the Izquierda Unida (United Left) has not worked for Pablo Iglesias’ party. A heavy blow for a party who aspired to become a main figure on the Left this June 26.

This June’s elections outline strong differences by age, rather similar to the trends observed in the ‘Brexit’ referendum. Those older than 50 years of age are the main fishing ground for the winning choice, whereas Unidos Podemos triumphs amongst young people. With a heavily ageing population, the parties favoured by elder voters end up winning. But we already knew all this in December. In reality, Spain is the same as it was on December 20, but with 130 million euros less, which were spent on an electoral campaign of which the citizens grew weary. The rapid formation of the government is now urgently needed, given that Spain is facing numerous challenges, starting with the necessary cut of 8000 million euros requested by the European Commission. With an unemployment rate which exceeds 20%, the country cannot allow itself another month of governmental paralysis. We will see if, following the profile beneath which they have kept campaigning, the politicians are now more willing to reach an agreement than they were in winter. Otherwise it risks backfiring on the Spanish people’s health.