Spanish voters went to the polls on April 28 in the country’s third general election in four years. The Partido Popular (PP) was losing ground to the socialist PSOE party which was expected to take the largest share of the votes, but not enough to give it an absolute majority in parliament. However, around 40 per cent of the electorate at that time declared themselves to be undecided.
The socialists seized power last summer after a series of scandals hit the PP government of Mariano Rajoy leading to its defeat in a No Confidence motion. The new prime minister, PSOE leader Pablo Sánchez, led a minority administration until February when he failed to get his budget – which he described as “the most socially-friendly in history” – through parliament, forcing him to call the election. All 350 seats in Congress and 208 of the 266 seats in the Senate, the Spanish parliament’s upper house, were up for grabs.
The campaigning ahead of polling day was described as one of the most aggressive ever. The PP and Ciudadanos predicted doom and gloom, and warned of the “dangers” of voting for the PSOE, referring to the socialists as “secessionist’ who are “threatening the unity of Spain.”
Podemos, in coalition with Izquierda Unida and running as Unidos Podemos, continued to urge voters to reject “the establishment” or the “Caste” as leader Pablo Iglesias refers to the PP and PSOE.
Far-right group VOX, which won its first seats ever in Andalucía’s early regional election in December, declared it had already won because, “you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” A recent survey suggest 54% of Spanish voters would never vote for VOX and its ultra-right policies which include restricting immigration and controlling immigrants rights, scrapping the equality rights of women, homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people, and campaigning against abortion. VOX was banned from a TV debate between party representatives by the Electoral Commission who said its involvement would not be “proportional” as it has not yet won any seats nationally.
As Spanish nationals prepared to vote, pundits were predicting that a coalition between the PSOE and Podemos would probably return Sánchez to power. However, another possibility being suggested was a possible right-wing coalition of the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos plus the pro-secession parties in Cataluña. No doubt the wrangling will continue well into May.
Many of those not permitted to vote on April 28 will have their chance to cast a ballot at the end of this month. Spain will stage municipal and European elections, plus some regional elections, on May 26.