Spain, which I had the privilege of visiting the month before last, held state and local elections on May 28, and the leftist party now in charge did poorly. So poorly, in fact, that Presidente Pedro Sanchez called snap elections for July 23. Possibly he fears the longer he waits the worse the left will do.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a snap election on Monday [May 29], in an apparent attempt to wrong-foot his conservative opponents and give his flagging Socialist party the best chance of retaining power before its support weakens further. Sanchez, who has repeatedly said he wanted to serve a full term, made the unexpected announcement a day after left-wing parties were routed in a regional ballot.
His move to bring the election forward to July from late 2023 took most of his government and even some members of his inner circle by surprise, according to sources close to the prime minister. But, as conservative opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo called on voters to make him Spain’s next leader, political experts said Sanchez—whose reputation as a political risk-taker is already well established—had bet his rivals won’t be ready to fight a coordinated campaign for the July 23 poll.
[Spain’s Sanchez gambles on snap election after regional ballot rout, by Belen Carreno, Inti Landauro and David Latona, Reuters, May 29, 2023]
What the article refers to as regions are comunidades autónomas (autonomous communities) in Spain, they are more or less the equivalent of American states.
When we were in Spain in March one of our taxi drivers was complaining in no uncertain terms about the leftist national government. I’m guessing he voted for the Partido Popular in his comunidad autónoma.
Feijoo’s mainstream People’s Party (PP) won outright control of two regional administrations and could run six more in partnership with far-right Vox, whose leader said he was ready to form coalitions with the PP. In all, 12 regions were contested.
Spain’s Vox party, in my view, is one of the most principled conservative parties in the world. They defend traditional Spain and oppose mass nonassimilating immigration. When I was in Spain I visited the party’s headquarters, but alas, they were closed that day. I did talk to a security guard who gave me some souvenirs. Here’s my Vox file.
So what does this election portend for the national election, now scheduled for July 23, less than two months away?
Sunday’s results indicate the PP and the far-right Vox could unseat Sanchez’s Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) if they replicated that performance at national level. ”The sooner (the election), the better,” Feijoo told a press conference, asking voters to give his party a ”clear majority” to run the country. ”I ask Spaniards to make me Spain’s next prime minister,” he said, adding that he had held informal talks with Vox.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal said his party was open ”creating an alternative” to Sanchez by forming national and regional governing coalitions with the PP.
Sanchez had previously said the national election would be in December, and it is rare for a Spanish government to call a snap ballot after a poor regional election—especially when much of the country will be on holiday.
A Spanish political science professor thinks Sanchez may use the ”threat” of Vox as a way to scare voters to vote for the left. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Pablo Simon, professor of political science at Madrid’s Carlos III University, said Sanchez’s strategy may be to rally support by raising the spectre of a first far-right party in government since dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, at a time when Spain will also hold the six-month EU presidency.
”If what he aspires to do is to mobilise the left with the fear of Vox, Vox’s negotiations with the PP during this whole period are going to be taking place during this time,” Simon said.
Presidente Sanchez surprised his own people by calling the snap election.
Sources close to the prime minister said almost no one within the government knew of his decision beforehand. ”The move has caught us by surprise, but now we know about it, it is the bold gesture we need to win,” said a senior government official.
On Sunday, while the PSOE dropped 400,000 votes compared to the 2019 local election according to official data, its far-left junior coalition partner Podemos lost ground across the board, further weakening Sanchez’s position.
Both the PP and the anti-immigration Vox performed better than expected.
The PP won an absolute majority in the capital Madrid while the Socialists lost control of Valencia, Aragon and the Balearic islands, as well as their southwestern stronghold of Extremadura and the cities of Valencia and Seville.
This upcoming election should be interesting.