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Socialist victory

Pedro Sánchez’s party may have won most votes at Sunday’s election, but there are several alternatives that lay ahead, with upcoming local, regional and European polls likely to be key

PSOE headquarters in Madrid after the election victory.
PSOE headquarters in Madrid after the election victory.Jaime Villanueva (EL PAÍS)

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), under the leadership of Pedro Sánchez, has become the most-voted force at the general election of April 28, and it will therefore be up to this party to try to form a government.

The Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) did not obtain the results they were expecting: they had trusted that the strategy of tension, which saw them fighting to to outdo one another, would lead to significant electoral losses for the Socialists. Instead, the PP has sustained such a stinging defeat that the leadership of Pablo Casado has come into question.

Ciudadanos is in the most difficult position and it bears the greatest responsibility

Meanwhile, Ciudadanos has failed in its attempt to lead the right despite having significantly increased its congressional presence. We should not rule out the influence on this outcome of the apocalyptic rhetoric that both parties have engaged in since the successful no-confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy of the PP. Other factors that may have played a role in the election outcome are the PP-Ciudadanos governing coalition in Andalusia, the rise of far-right party Vox (which props up the Andalusian government), and the normalization of the latter’s extremist program.

The parliament that has emerged from these elections theoretically affords several alternatives for the PM’s investment into office, barring the aberrant possibility of a new election, which is what happened in 2016, or the option of a minority government. But it is to be expected that political groups will not take a stand on potential deals until the upcoming local, regional and European elections of May 26.

This undeclared link between Sunday’s outcome and future elections is not the best way to achieve an effective management of central, regional and municipal powers, as these have unique and specific needs. But it is the only realistic scenario in light of the parliament’s new make-up. It is also the only prudent choice, given the political implications for dealing with the country’s main problems arising from the fact that the PSOE is now forced to choose between different majority options.

The PP has sustained such a stinging defeat that the leadership of Pablo Casado has come into question

In this regard, Ciudadanos is in the most difficult position and it bears the greatest responsibility: if it persists in its point-blank refusal to make governing deals with the PSOE – as gruffly expressed during the campaign – it will turn its warnings about the unity of Spain into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The trouble with an alternative majority with Podemos lies in the fact that the latter’s votes are not enough to get the Socialist candidate reinstated; but it goes beyond that. There is also Podemos’s position regarding the territorial crisis in Catalonia. In any case, neither option can be ruled out yet, especially since the election calendar provides a truce during which parties can focus on their programs rather than on coalitions of acronyms.

The territorial crisis requires a political solution that will remain firmly within the bounds of the Constitution, but that is not the only problem that will have to be resolved. Without a simultaneous response to the devastating problems of youth unemployment, precarious jobs, social inequality, climate change and the future of pensions, to mention just some unavoidable reforms, an open parliament runs the unacceptable risk of mutating into a non-viable parliament.

English version by Susana Urra.

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