► How can Pedro Sanchez appear as the big winner of an election yet won by the right?
While losing the elections, the outgoing prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, won his bet to prevent the victory of the right. Monday, July 24, he proclaimed radiantly: “This country has said no to withdrawal and retreat. It is a reference for Europe and for the world. In fact, with 136 seats in Parliament, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo’s People’s Party is ahead of the Socialist Party, but it is far from an absolute majority of 176 seats, even with the support of 33 deputies from the far-right Vox party, its only potential ally.
The left, which had failed in the municipal elections in May, remobilized between May 28 and July 23, which no one expected. Symbolically, the PSOE wins 1 million votes compared to the legislative elections of December 2019 and two deputies. The People’s Party won 3 million votes, which is considerable with 47 deputies. If in fact, the right is in the lead, the socialist party has resisted. Prime Minister Sanchez “is seen as resilient, he also wrote his memoirs, entitled ‘Manual of resistance’”, comments Benoît Pellistrandi, historian specializing in Spain. Pedro Sanchez can regain his majority, but while being at the mercy of the Catalan and Basque separatists.
► Did social issues play a role in this election?
The PP had clearly said that it would not return to the question of abortion, which is enshrined in the constitution, nor to LGBT rights. On the other hand, its ally Vox campaigned on their abolition. On these subjects, Pedro Sanchez played confrontation during the campaign by opposing the reactionary conservative bloc, wanting to reconsider freedoms, to the progressive bloc, on the left. The PP, on the other hand, campaigned moderately and rationally by calling for state pacts with the socialist party, which resulted in a demobilization of the right. What, as of Sunday, Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, reproached Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, making him responsible for “the failure of the alternative”, this coalition government between the two parties that he aspired to build.
“By tensing up the debate and waving the red rag of the far right and the return of fascism and Francoism, Pedro Sanchez, as an outstanding tribune, better mobilized and spoke to the guts of a certain number of Spanish voters, judge Professor Pellistrandi. While the leader on the right spoke to him to the reason of the Spaniards.
If the majority of Spaniards were in favor of the opening of new individual rights, the latest developments on societal issues, such as the “law of equality for trans people”, have greatly tensed society. But these themes did not dominate the poll. “For forty years in Spain the political and cultural majority has been on the left. This is very powerful and very strong in disqualifying the right and attributing anti-democratic temptations to it. Which is completely unfair because the People’s Party is clearly a European liberal democratic right-wing party,” comments Benoît Pellistrandi.
► In the aftermath of these elections, is the political situation blocked?
Arithmetically, the right emerges victorious from these elections, but has no majority to govern. On the left, Pedro Sanchez depends, to govern, on a myriad of independence parties, including the Catalans. The latter certainly suffered a real electoral setback: the left, Esquerra republicana (ERC), lost 6 seats. Junts, the party of Carles Puigdemont, still in exile in Belgium, one seat. But these two parties, also Catalan enemy brothers, have in mind to lead a showdown with Madrid. They have already warned that their support for the investiture of Sanchez will have a price and that it will be high: independence referendum, settlement of Carles Puigdemont’s legal problems…
To get out of the deadlock, the French academic believes that a repeat of the elections is not to be ruled out. Boosted by his success and because he is still in office, Pedro Sanchez would benefit, according to him, to convene a kind of “second round” rather than go under the caudine forks of uncontrollable separatists. This could allow him to hope to obtain a more comfortable majority and, thereby, to take advantage of a right weakened by its divisions. Pedro Sanchez, reinforced by what he demonstrated on Sunday and by his electoral capacity, has every interest in capitalizing on this image of “winner” to be in the best conditions within six months. For the moment, the Prime Minister seems to exclude it: “This democracy will find the formula of governability”, he asserted on Monday.
► Can the winner, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo ask for the investiture?
Alberto Nuñez Feijoo has already said that he would demand the right to govern in a minority, but without a firm majority, he has little chance of succeeding. Pedro Sanchez can also fail because, even assuming that he is invested, he will not be able to govern without his texts in Parliament being revoked at any time. Governing under these conditions will be difficult for the right, as for the left.
The new Parliament will be constituted on August 17. The parties can then negotiate, without time limit, to try to find a majority. From the moment a vote of investiture fails, the Head of State, King Felipe VI, must on the other hand dissolve Parliament two months after this date and call new elections. A deadlock situation that Spain knows well since, between 2015 and 2019, the country had four legislative elections.
A Spain without an absolute majority
The People’s Party (PP), which came first, won 136 seats out of a total of 350 in the Congress of Deputies. The far-right Vox party, its only potential ally, won 33. Together they therefore only total 169 seats, far from an absolute majority of 176.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) has 122 deputies and Sumar, his radical left ally, 31, or 153 MPs between them.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez still has a chance of staying in power because he is able to obtain the support of Basque and Catalan parties, which already support him regularly in Parliament.
Among them, the Catalans of ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) or the Basques of Bildu, a formation considered to be the heir to the political showcase of the armed organization ETA.
He will also have to count on the abstention of the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party. Its leaders, including Carles Puigdemont, in exile in Belgium, have already made it clear that such an eventuality would have counterparts.
If all these conditions are met, Pedro Sanchez could then gather on his name 172 deputies, more than the leader of the PP, which would be enough for him in a second vote of investiture by Parliament, where only a simple majority is required.