With the Spanish General Election this Sunday 28 April, the ruling PSOE party (the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) will be heading to the polls in a fight to remain in power.
Founded in 1879, the party has been in power for longer than any other political party in modern democratic Spain, and over time its overall platform has evolved.
For the 28 April elections, the 2019 PSOE has positioned itself as environmentalist, pro-European, and pro-feminism, as well as firmly pro-Spanish unity. The party’s campaign motto is ‘The Spain you want’, also a play on words on ‘The Spain you love.’
Led by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the PSOE came back into power in 2018, after ousting right-wing People’s Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy in a motion of no-confidence, preceded by a series of financial scandals featuring the PP.
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Since then, PSOE has grown steadily in the polls, with Spain’s CIS public research institute suggesting the party will take over a third of the votes (with between 123-138 seats in Congress), and again coming in strong in the Catalonia constituencies (12-14).
This climb in popularity has in party been attributed do the social measures it’s pushed for, including extending paternity leave or raising the minimum wage, with the latter gaining support from other left-wing parties such as Podemos.
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Other measures are, however, still in the promises stage, including proposed initiatives like eliminating special protection for politicians, and the much-discussed exhumation of the remains of dictator Francisco Franco, currently in a mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen.
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With regards the Catalan issue, inherited from Rajoy’s executive, PSOE falls squarely in the unionist camp. Whilst its strategies to maintain the integrity of the Spanish state are less severe and its relationship seemingly less fraught than that of its predecessor, Sánchez’s government has been clear: it won’t tolerate anything seen as unconstitutional.
While avoiding all mention of Catalonia in its manifesto, the incumbent Socialist party has however had to address the source of Spain’s largest constitutional crisis since the return of democracy. Pedro Sánchez has been firm that where allowing a referendum on self-determination is concerned, ‘no means no’.
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Sánchez has been reinforcing this with speeches leading up to the vote. Giving a speech at an event in Madrid, he proclaimed that ‘with the Socialist party in government, the independence of Catalonia won’t take place.’ He concluded: ‘Coexistence – always, independence – never.’
The 28 April snap election was called because Sánchez was unable to find enough allies for his proposed 2019 budget. This is support that Catalan pro-independence parties withheld, with the latter demanding moves towards self-determination or releasing prisoners. While the Socialists vowed not to budge on these issues, they were also painted by the unionist opposition as dealing with parties deemed as ‘separatists’.
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If the polls are correct, PSOE is unlikely to win simple majority, so even if the ballot boxes yield success, on 29 April it would again have to face the same challenge as before: forging alliances with the same parties as before, both pro-independence and unionist, in the Spanish Congress.
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