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The decline of the left in Spain

Spanish Socialists have been unable to take advantage of falling support for the Popular Party

PSEO leader Pedro Sánchez.
PSEO leader Pedro Sánchez.WILL OLIVER (EFE)

Ciudadanos has taken the lead. The Spanish people’s desire for a change in the political cycle is evident in all the polls. The recent survey conducted by Metroscopia for EL PAÍS in the first days of May is particularly revealing. The combined support for Spain’s leading parties – the incumbent Popular Party and the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) – has plunged below 50%. In a hypothetical election, both parties would receive their worst result in history.

The PP, led by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, would suffer the greatest upheaval, losing up to 10% of the votes it won in 2016. All the indicators look bad: very few see the party as credible and very few believe they have a project for the future. Indeed, the majority believe that Rajoy should not run in the next elections, that he is not interested in solving Spain’s problems, and that he is not handling the Catalan secessionist challenge well. What’s more, the PP’s own voters rate Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera higher than Mariano Rajoy.

A majority believes that Rajoy should not run in the next elections

Against this backdrop, Ciudadanos has leapt ahead of its three rival parties, a jump that has hurt both the PP and PSOE, a veteran party whose voters, while still closely identifying with its values, show a more critical attitude towards the group’s situation. It is a scenario that, in electoral terms, would allow the anti-austerity Podemos to overtake the PSOE, continuing the PP’s sustained downward trend and the Socialist Party’s inability to climb positions. It is a very negative outlook for the PSOE, which is unable to take advantage of that falling support for the PP.

Theoretically, the Socialists should be gaining the ground that the PP has lost. But Ciudadanos has gained followers by hardening its rhetoric, whether in favor of reviewable permanent prison or maintaining the emergency measures of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in Catalonia. The PSOE is losing the battle to win over the center-left, a battleground that seems to have already been abandoned. The problem is that Spaniards, who are more worried about the political situation than their economic problems, don’t see adequate solutions or enough credibility in the future actions of Pedro Sánchez’s party.

Demobilization, disillusionment and pessimism are problems for the left in Spain

Demobilization, disillusionment and pessimism are problems for the left in Spain, even for Podemos, but especially for the PSOE. It is the party, however, which is the least rejected, which has experience in government, which puts forward interesting proposals (such as its euthanasia plan) and which for years spearheaded progress in this country. It is unforgivable for the Socialists to squander this experience. But everything indicates that its renewal efforts did not end up convincing the public, a situation that is pushing Spain towards a center-right hegemony led by Albert Rivera, who continues to steal PSOE voters.

Yet the PSOE’s enemy is not the leader of Ciudadanos, but rather its own difficulty in defining a vision for its unhappy voters and, above all, in proposing promising solutions to the country’s serious political crisis.

English version by Melissa Kitson.


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