Spain faces uncertain political future ahead of elections
On April 28, Spain will go to the polls to elect a new Parliament to counter the challenges that face the country in the near future. The next prime minister will have to guide the nation with wisdom in matters such as the management of the favorable (at the moment) economic situation; the territorial crisis unleashed by the secession attempt by Catalan nationalists in Oct. 2017; the rise of populist political parties, on the left and right; the Spanish position in the EU ahead of the interminable Brexit; and the management of the current crisis in Venezuela, to name but a few.
The opinion polls indicate that the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will secure about 120 of the 350 seats in Congress. This would make it the single largest party in the Parliament and offer a number of possibilities for forming a stable coalition government. But with whom will Sanchez negotiate?
All the indicators suggest that his current political allies — left-wing populists Podemos, who have been accused of being supported by Iran and Venezuela, and the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties — will not win enough seats for him to recreate the coalition that allowed him to remove Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy from power in June 2018.
All indications are that the new Parliament will be very divided with no clear majority that would allow the formation of a government by a single party.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
Sanchez might try to enlist the support of the Catalonian, liberal-center Citizens party, as he did in the spring of 2016 without being able to build a majority on that occasion. However, the leader of that party, Albert Rivera, has said he will not support Sanchez this time because he is not firm enough in the face of the secessionist challenge by Catalan nationalists.
On the right, meanwhile, there is a new confrontation between the traditional conservatives of the People’s Party, to which former Prime Minister Rajoy belongs, and a relatively new populist party, Vox. Led by former People’s Party member Santiago Abascal, Vox is very similar to other Euroskeptic parties such as the National Rally in France (formerly the National Front), Italy’s Lega Nord or Germany’s Alternative Fur Deutschland (all of which have unclear links to Vladimir Putin’s Russia).
Although the polls indicate that the traditional conservatives will be more successful than the populists, some analysts have suggested that Vox might yet become the most successful right-wing party in the election by appealing to a critical section of voters unhappy with the lack of strength shown by the People’s Party on the issue of the Catalan secessionists.
In any case, all indications are that the new Parliament will be divided with no clear majority that would allow the formation of a government by a single party. It is also possible that the result will make it impossible for a stable coalition to be formed, and that the country might therefore be faced with a re-run of the election, as has happened in 2015 and 2016.
The importance of Spain, through its core membership of the EU, its presence in South America and North Africa and its projection as an economic and cultural power, suggests that whatever happens at the election the country will continue to play a very important role on the world stage.
- Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @DrHamsheri