Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE) scored an underwhelming general election victory Sunday, winning more votes than any other party yet managing to lose three seats in Congress and relinquishing majority control of Spain’s Senate.
The final result was marked by a sharp surge in support for the far-right VOX party, chiefly at the expense of an imploding centre-right Ciudadanos, and will make the possibility of a PSOE-led governing majority being formed by Congress even less likely than it was following the last general election in April.
The final election results for the five national parties in Spain’s Congress were:
► Socialist party (PSOE): 6,752,983 votes, 28% vote share (DOWN from 28.68% in last election), 120 seats in Congress (LOSS of 3 seats);
► Partido Popular (PP): won 5,019,869 votes, 20.8% vote share (UP from 16.70% last election), 88 seats in Congress (GAIN of 22 seats);
► VOX: won 3,640,063 votes, 15.1% vote share (UP from 10.26% last election), 52 seats in Congress (GAIN of 28 seats);
► Unidas Podemos: won 3,097,185 votes, 12.8% vote share (DOWN from 14.32% last election), 35 seats in Congress (LOSS of 7 seats);
► Ciudadanos: 1,637,540 votes, 6.8% vote share (DOWN from 15.86% last election), 10 seats in Congress (LOSS of 47 seats).
The Ciudadanos implosion at the ballot-fox led party leader Albert Rivera to announce his resignation at a meeting of the centre-right party’s executive committee on Monday morning. What was a steady decline in support for Ciudadanos spiked into to a full-blown rout for the party at the ballot box, as former supporters who began to see their support for Ciudadanos as a useless “throw-away” vote shifted their allegiances.
Some former Ciudadanos voters shifted support to the Partido Popular (PP), the bulwark of traditional conservativism in Spain. But most abandoned the centre-right party to support VOX, whose hard-line Spanish nationalist rhetoric attracted voters fed up with turmoil in Catalonia, where pro-independence supporters have vowed to make the region ungovernable in the wake of the 14th October conviction and sentencing of nine Catalan independence leaders by Spain’s Supreme Court for their role in an unconstitutional 2017 independence referendum and declaration of secession from Spain.
The remarkable surge in support for VOX increased dramatically during the last two weeks prior to Sunday’s election, following nationally televised violent street clashes in Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia in response to the Supreme Court verdict and sentencing. The images of hooded pro-independence demonstrators rampaging through the streets and attacking regional and national police dominated Spanish print and broadcast media news cycles for days on end and are believed largely responsible for spurring a surge in Spanish nationalism and anti-Catalan sentiment that chiefly benefited VOX.
To the left of centre, the PSOE’s rival leftwing Unidas Podemos coalition failed to match its showing at the ballot box in last April’s general election and its loss of seven seats in Congress leaves the party with less influence than it held previously in negotiations with the PSOE to string together support in Congress for the formation of a progressive government. Taken together, the PSOE and Unidas Podemos lost a total of 10 seats, and there was little consolation for the progressive left in the win of three congressional seats by Spain’s new left-wing Mas País party, led by former Podemos co-founder Íñigo Errejón.
In addition to failing to meet PSOE leader and acting Spanish President Pedro Sánchez’s expectation of increasing the number of seats held by the Socialists in Congress, the PSOE’s loss of a majority in the Senate means that even if the Socialists were able to cobble together support to form a working majority in Congress its ability to maintain a stable government could be significantly undermined.
As a result of the Senate majority loss, the Socialists will now need to gain additional support from the PP or other parties in the Senate for approval of key budgetary legislation or enactment of national security initiatives. That could include such measures as the controversial Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, used in 2017 by former President Mariano Rajoy to intervene in Catalonia in the wake of promotion of a pro-independence referendum by the Catalan regional Generalitat regional government.
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