A survey of recent voter opinion polls published at the weekend in the national newspaper Público gives a slim advantage in upcoming general elections to the Socialist party (PSOE) of President Pedro Sánchez. If the polling data holds, says the report in Público, the PSOE could regain as many as a million votes and increase its position in Spain’s 350-member Congress from the 84 seats it held as a minority government in the just-dissolved legislature to as many as 112 in the next legislative session.
The numbers contained in the “poll of polls” compiled by research firm Key Data for Público seem to confirm the results in recently conducted voter opinion polls by the GAD3 polling organization for La Vanguardia, by the GESOP polling firm for El Periódico and by latest recent monthly “barometer” of public opinion conducted by the government’s own Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS).
But the umbrella survey of polls by the Key Data organization showed one key distinguishing factor from all of the most recent surveys, which were taken prior to or just following the defeat of the Sánchez government’s 2019 budget proposal in Congress that led to the dissolution of the legislature last week in order to hold new general elections on 28th April.
Those polls had all shown a rise in support for the Socialists at the same time as a sharp spike in support for ultra-right party Vox, which posted a surprisingly strong showing in recent Andalucía regional elections that enabled the defeat of the regional PSOE affiliate party and formation of a governing coalition led by the conservative Partido Popular (PP) for the first time in 40 years.
Key Data’s analysis of the polling trends’ impact on the proportional representation of seats in Congress, however, indicates that Vox is actually contributing to the fragmentation of the right-wing vote in Spain at the same time that it is fueling support for the Socialists as the party most able to stave off the right-wing threat. In their analysis, Key Data points to a surge in support for the Socialists since Sánchez dissolved Congress, attributing the shift to the so-called “useful vote” (‘voto útil’) phenomenon, meaning that voters are recognizing that to vote for any other party than the PSOE in the April elections would amount to casting a “throw-away” ballot that would benefit the political right.
While likely to buoy spirits in the Socialist camp, the polling data in now way indicates the Socialists will be able to govern easily, with the projected increase in congressional seats to 112 still leaving the party far short of the 176-majority needed to pass legislation and a federal budget with the kinds of social-spending increases the Socialists are seeking.
In order to govern, the PSOE will still need to strike alliances in Congress with the same coalition of parties that brought Sánchez to power in the vote of no-confidence that ousted former President Mariano Rajoy in May 2018, including the increasingly recalcitrant Catalan pro-independence parties PDeCat and ERC.
The chances that those parties will support a Sánchez government following the April elections appear to be less now than in the last legislature, with news at the weekend that the hard-line independista faction led by fugitive former Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont won PDeCat internal primaries, making it more likely that PDeCat deputies elected to the next Congress will obstinately refuse to support a PSOE government without concessions that would allow the Catalans to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in defiance of the country’s Constitutional Court.
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