Electoral earthquake in Andalusia

The outcome of the vote in Spain’s most-populous region represents a political change across the country

Andalusian PM Susana Díaz on Sunday.
Andalusian PM Susana Díaz on Sunday.Alejandro Ruesga

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The ballot boxes in Andalusia have yielded an outcome that makes governing the region an extraordinarily complicated affair. It also turns the political system on its head: the rise of a fifth party, the far-right group Vox, not only means an even greater fragmentation of the right, but also transforms the balance of political power across Spain, where there is now a five-party scenario in place.

Simple math makes it impossible for Susana Díaz to seek the same support that has allowed her to lead the region until now; and if we view the Andalusian results from a national perspective, it is very hard to imagine Ciudadanos and Adelante Andalucía – the regional branch of Podemos – joining forces to let Díaz get reinstated into power.

After 36 years of uninterrupted Socialist Party (PSOE) rule in Andalusia, a long era has come to an end in Spain’s most-populous region (8.4 million), which had also been a prime constituency for the PSOE. Even though the PSOE has won the election again, the overall result represents a debacle that cannot be concealed: Susana Díaz’s party has tumbled from 47 seats to just 33. Considering the fact that the PSOE had been heading the regional government since Spain’s transition to democracy, the party itself is to be held accountable for these results, as Andalusians have turned their backs on they way their region is being run.

Additionally, the turnout rate was the second lowest ever seen in an Andalusian election, indicating voter apathy in the political left and a rise in right-wing voters. If this election showcases anything, it is the very significant rise of the conservative vote, a fact that will have an impact across the Spanish territory. Andalusia, and by extension all of Spain, is no longer different from its main neighboring countries: a far-right party has entered the democratic institutions with no fewer than 12 seats and nearly 11% of the vote.

While its profile is still a little hazy, Vox can be linked to radical Spanish nationalism and also to the European rise of eccentric groups such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front – its leader has rushed to congratulate Vox – or Matteo Salvini in Italy and Alternative for Germany. Vox is not an Andalusian party: its ambitions are national, and its performance on Sunday will influence the upcoming local, regional, European and possibly even national elections in Spain next year. The question remains whether Vox’s support comes exclusively from the most extreme nationalists who have been moved to action by the Catalan crisis, or whether the party has also made inroads in other constituencies who are sensitive to the challenges posed by the Catalan separatist drive. If so, it would be the most radical symptom of the effects of the Catalan crisis on Spain’s party system.

The Popular Party (PP) has managed to hold on to second position and keep Ciudadanos in check, but this latter party is now breathing down the PP’s neck: the conservatives have lost a large amount of votes, while Albert Rivera’s party has taken third spot after increasing its seats from nine to 21. There is still room for strategic moves within the political right.

Adelante Andalucía has met with disappointing results compared with its leaders’ ambitions and with the expectations that had built up around the regional branch of Podemos. Based on Sunday’s outcome, it can no longer hope to play the role of kingmaker in the regional assembly.

The outcome also complicates any nationwide calculations for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, himself of the PSOE, who comes out weaker from the Andalusia vote. Voters have shown a clear tendency to lean towards the right, and in some cases toward the far right. Conservative parties are facing increasingly fragmented constituencies, yet they should not treat Vox like one more party within the system, but as a group that defends an ideology that shows disdain for democratic institutions.

The worst thing that could happen is for Vox’s success to make others think that they should follow down the same road. That would represent the greatest debacle of all following the electoral earthquake in Andalusia.

English version by Susana Urra.

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