The map of Spanish political forces in the European Parliament is being redrawn. The Socialist Party (PSOE) won the elections on Sunday with 33% of the vote, pushing down the Popular Party (PP) from the leading position it had held since 2014.
The percentage of votes secured by the Spanish Socialists, with acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at the helm, was somewhat higher than what the PSOE obtained at the snap general election of April 28.
It is a source of pride, it is an opportunity, but it is also an enormous responsibility
Acting PM Pedro Sánchez
The PSOE’s improved results coincide with the collapse of Germany’s Social Democrats, awarding the Spanish representatives a greater role in leading the S&D group in Strasbourg.
The PSOE made significant gains, going from 13 to 20 seats, which could make it the biggest member of the S&D group since Spain joined the EU in 1986. Italy’s Democratic Party has come close with 19 seats, although the final vote count is not yet in.
“We are going to be the first social-democratic delegation in the European Parliament,” said acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at a public appearance in Madrid shortly after midnight. “It is a source of pride, it is an opportunity, but it is also an enormous responsibility.”
Turnout was much higher than in 2014: 64%, up from 46%. Participation was strong due partly to the fact that the European vote coincided with municipal and, in some cases, regional elections in Spain.
Borrell, who made a brief appearance on Sunday night to thank Spaniards for going out to vote, could now be in the running for an influential position in Brussels. The sharing out of posts will start to be discussed on Wednesday at an informal meeting of heads of state and government in Brussels.
The PP, which had until now had the highest number of MEPs in Strasbourg of all Spanish parties, has dropped from 16 to 12, representing 20% of the vote. This is still higher than the figure that had been forecast, and an improvement from the 16.7% that Spain’s mainstream conservatives earned on April 28.
We were expecting better results, but compared with other countries where the left is fragmented, we have resisted well
Mª Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, Unidas Podemos
This suggests that some of the traditional voters who switched to Vox at the general elections may have returned to the PP on Sunday. Its candidate, Dolors Montserrat, noted that the European People’s Party (EPP) remains the most-voted group in the European Parliament, with 24% support. “We are part of that great family,” she said.
Three other Spanish parties have earned representation in the European Parliament. One of them is Ciudadanos (Citizens), which earned seven MEPs (up from two) and 12% of the vote. Its candidate Luis Garicano cited French President Emmanuel Macron as his main support in Europe and said: “We’re going to Europe to change things and work hard.”
The leftist Unidas Podemos alliance managed six seats, but this falls far short of the six and five representatives that United Left and Podemos secured, respectively, when they ran separately in 2014.
“We were expecting better results, but compared with other countries where the left is fragmented, we have resisted well,” said the group’s top candidate, María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop. “We have enough popular support to carry out the changes we want. We are the only force that can act as a bulwark against the Europe of cuts.”
And the far-right Vox party entered the European chamber for the first time, earning 6% of the vote and three MEPs at the Sunday elections. This is somewhat less than had been forecast, and down from the 10% that it secured at the general election, when the party entered the national parliament for the first time. “We are going to develop and reinforce Europe on the basis of respect for nations and concord,” said its candidate Jorge Buxadé.
With additional reporting by Ana Marcos, Elsa García de Blas and Natalia Junquera.
English version by Susana Urra.