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Spain’s priority: forming a government

The PP’s win is a sad affair. Voters sent the PSOE to the opposition, where it should allow a government by whoever has enough votes for it

Mariano Rajoy thanks supporters on Sunday night at PP headquarters in Madrid.
Mariano Rajoy thanks supporters on Sunday night at PP headquarters in Madrid.MARCELO DEL POZO (REUTERS)

Spain has voted, and the outcome has not been, as expected, a replay of the inconclusive poll of December 20. That said, no single party has emerged with enough seats in Congress to automatically form a government.

The priority now is to allow for a pact that will provide a stable administration as soon as possible. Solutions are needed, which will mean putting the interests of the country before those of parties and individuals. There can be no return to the stalemate of the last six months, and much less any question of a third election.

The Popular Party (PP) has done better this time than it did in December, and once again, its leader Mariano Rajoy has been given the opportunity to form a government: let’s hope he doesn’t turn it down again.

Rajoy must now try to form a broad-based administration. The view of this newspaper is that such a process would be aided if he stepped down

Rajoy’s position has been strengthened, but he has fallen far short of the majority he needs to govern alone. He must now try to form a broad-based administration, and for that the PP will need to begin talks with possible allies. The view of this newspaper is that such a process would be aided if Rajoy stepped down, but it is more than likely that he will see last night’s result as a personal vindication. His strategy of polarization during the election campaign, aided by Podemos, as well as to some extent by Brexit, has worked. In any event, his is a sad victory in the midst of a desolate scenario.

Spain’s other political parties must now face up to the situation. In the case of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Sunday’s disastrous result, even worse than December’s, is being interpreted as good news, given that the party has at least managed to hold on to second place against the challenge launched by the Podemos-United Left tandem.

But the Socialists know that nothing has changed, other than the fact that they have lost five seats in Congress: in the coming days they will have to begin addressing the problems that continue to threaten their existence. For the moment, the absolute priority is to heed the electorate and remain in opposition, allowing whoever has the most votes to govern.

The Socialists have been hit hard, but not as hard as the Podemos-United Left coalition. Its strategy of creating a left-wing bloc, hoping to garner jointly the votes each won separately in December, has failed, rejected by many voters who instead turned to the Socialists.

Podemos can no longer claim to be the voice of the left, and its hopes of leading political change have failed to attract voters. The PSOE continues to be the party that leads the European left, appealing to voters looking for moderation and a commitment to social democracy.

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More than ever, what Spain needs now from its politicians is a responsible response to the election results. As this paper has pointed out, the appearance of Podemos and Ciudadanos reflects voter fatigue with the two-party system that has dominated Spanish politics for the last three decades.

Solutions are now needed, but they must be solutions that reflect the fact that no party emerged the clear winner in Sunday’s polls. Spain needs a government, and cannot continue any longer in the limbo created by the failure to form an administration over the last six months.

Spain’s parties need to understand they will have to make sacrifices if any kind of agreement is to be reached. The stability of Spain requires solutions. The worst outcome of Sunday’s poll would be a repeat of the political stalemate of the last six months, which means no more blocking maneuvers. The electorate will not tolerate having to return to the polls for a third time within a year.

A solution needs to be found if a government is to be formed, and that solution will need better luck than the PSOE-Ciudadanos coalition ever enjoyed. Whatever the outcome of the talks that will take place in the coming days, Spain needs a government that can meet the needs of its taxpayers, as well as appearing credible in the eyes of the international community.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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