Following the failure of Spanish political leaders to reach a governing deal in time to avert a repeat election, parties are scrambling to design their new campaign strategies ahead of November 10, when Spaniards will almost certainly be asked to return to the polls.
The Socialist Party (PSOE), which has been leading a caretaker government since the parliamentary election of April 28, will now try to steal voters away from Ciudadanos (Citizens), a party that gained national prominence on a liberal-progressive agenda but that has lately shifted to the right, crafting alliances with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the far-right Vox while shunning any deals with the PSOE.
PSOE strategists feel that their party will no longer be able to attract many more voters from the leftist Unidas Podemos group, and they have now set their sights on the more progressive followers of Ciudadanos, who could number around a million people.
Some sources in the PSOE, however, are skeptical about this plan and believe that many disgruntled Ciudadanos voters will simply abstain instead of switching allegiances.
But party leaders believe that there are many opportunities to be found in Catalonia, Ciudadanos’ home region and the place where this party started to grow on an anti-separatist message. “There are a lot of borderline voters there who once voted for us, and we think we can bring them back by defending dialogue [with Catalan nationalist leaders] within the bounds of the Constitution,” said one source in the PSOE leadership.
The PSOE sees itself as an attractive alternative for non-separatist Catalans who oppose Unidas Podemos’s calls for a legal referendum, but who fall short of supporting Ciudadanos’ insistence on reintroducing direct rule by Madrid.
Meanwhile, PP leader Pablo Casado is continuing to cultivate his moderate public persona as he strives to win back the conservative voters who switched to Ciudadanos and Vox on April 28, when the PP lost a massive 71 seats from the previous election.
Podemos is still undecided as to whether it should attack the PSOE or use moderate rhetoric, considering that its goal remains a coalition government, and that the Socialists are their only possible partners.
And Albert Rivera, who steered Ciudadanos toward the right in a move that has triggered internal criticism and the resignation of several party leaders – including Francesc de Carreras, considered the party’s “intellectual father” – will now have to decide which flank to focus on to contain the probable loss of votes.
English version by Susana Urra.