PSOE dealt blow in shock Andalucía election results

Votes counted in El Ejido municipality in Sunday's Andalucía regional elections. Photo: Carlos Barba/EFA via El País
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Low voter turnout overall in Spain’s southernmost region of Andalucía combined with a favorable response to anti-immigrant and nationalist campaign rhetoric in coastal and some rural areas dealt a sharp blow to Andalucía’s long-reigning Socialist party (PSOE) and put wind in the sails of Spain’s fledgling ultra-right VOX party on Sunday.

Pre-election voter preference surveys predicted that the PSOE would win the day and form a coalition government with the Podemos-backed Adelante Andalucía (AA) coalition. But all that changed as four in 10 voters elected to abstain, staying away from the polls on Sunday and giving the 2018 regional elections a low turnout rate of 58.6 percent — the second lowest voter turnout in any Andalucía regional election since Spain returned to democracy in 1978.

The final vote tally showed the PSOE losing its grip on power after four decades in control of the regional government, unable to put together a coalition with Adelante Andalucía and looking at a virtually impossible chance of participating in a governing coalition of any sort. The PSOE’s traditional conservative rival, the Partido Popular (PP), likewise showed dismal results, but a strong showing by centre-right Ciudadanos and the surge in support for the ultra-nationalist VOX party in some areas appeared to ensure that the PSOE will be replaced in power by a right-wing governing coalition.

The final vote tally showed the PSOE losing 402,000 votes and 14 seats over its previous showing in the 2015 regional elections, while remaining most-voted party with 28.56 percent of the votes and 47 seats in the 109-member regional parliament. The PP placed second, with 20.52 percent of the votes for 33 seats in the assembly, down 316,000 votes and losing 7 seats from its 2015 performance.

Ciudadanos won the third-highest number of votes Sunday, winning 17.99 percent of the vote share for 21 seats, up 12 from the nine seats it won in 2015; while the Podemos-backed Adelante Andalucía coalition placed fourth, winning 16.21 percent of the vote for 17 seats, a loss of 3 seats it has held since the 2015 balloting.

But it was the surprising showing of ultra-right VOX party in its first effort in Andalucía elections that won most coverage in the national news media. The four-year old party won its first seats in any regional parliament in Spain on Sunday, grabbing 378,000 votes for 10.81 percent of the total vote share and a dozen seats in the regional assembly.

The 50-seats accruing to a combination of PSOE-AA deputies in the new assembly leave parties on Andalucía’s poltical Left five seats short of the 55-seat absolute majority needed to form a government.

Only the combined 59 assembly seats of a PP-Ciudadanos-VOX coalition appear to have any chance at governing, but with both the PP and Ciudadanos claiming credit for removing the PSOE from power it is not yet clear which party would lead a right-wing coalition and who would emerge as the next President of Andalucía.

The regional assembly will convene on 27th December on the first day of the new legislature and after formation of a Mesa Directiva executive committee the parties will have two weeks to announce a candidacy and a date set for a parliamentary vote to form the next regional government.

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