20th June 2024
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With Sánchez and Feijóo both claiming victory in the election … what happens next?

Report updated to include votes from Spaniards living abroad.

Spain faces weeks, if not months, of a political gridlock following the general election held on Sunday, after the current Prime Minister and leader of the PSOE socialists, Pedro Sánchez, and his main opposition rival, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the right-wing People’s Party (PP), both claimed victory.

What is clear is that there will now follow weeks of political negotiations over the summer, and failing any agreements, there could even be another election to resolve matters. ALSO READ: Spain’s right-wing PP win the election, but not a majority, even with far-right Vox.

‘Spain has been crystal clear and resoundingly clear,’ Sánchez said, after the final votes had been counted, near to midnight on Sunday [see Tweet below]. ‘The backward block, which proposed the repeal of the progress made in these four years, has failed. There are many more of us who want Spain to continue advancing. Thanks very much to you all.’

Feijóo, meanwhile [also see Tweet below], said: ‘The PP has won the general election. Thanks to the more than 8 million Spaniards who have given us their support. I want to form a government and I am going to start a dialogue with the rest of the parties. I ask for responsibility so that Spain does not suffer blockades.’

Although Feijóo’s party narrowly won the highest share of votes and seats, however, it has not secured the parliamentary majority needed to topple the five-year-old coalition government of Sánchez.

Whilst Feijóo told his supporters he would try to form a government, the process is likely to take many weeks as Sánchez also aims to secure support from smaller parties to form another governing coalition. Failing that, a new election could also be called.

Expectations that the far-right Vox party led by Santiago Abascal would perform well enough to prop up a PP-led government did not transpire. Vox’s campaign was fuelled by anti-immigration and climate change-denying messages. It also based its campaign on calling to repeal gender violence laws, transgender rights and also slamming feminism. 

The prospect of Spain having a far-right party in power (or sharing power within a right-wing coalition) for the first time since Franco’s dictatorship, however, diminished after Vox took a beating in the election. It lost 19 of its parliamentary seats to finish with a total of 33. Even so, it remains the country’s third political force.

No party secured more than half of the Spanish Parliament’s 350 seats − the 176 threshold being the figure to win an absolute majority.

The PP finally won 137* seats (up 48 from 2019), but even with a possible coalition with Vox (33 seats), it is not enough to secure the majority required – not even with Navarra’s ‘Union del Pueblo Navarro’ (UPN) party (1 seat), the only other group likely to support a right-wing coalition. This would give 171 in total for the right-wing bloc.

Sánchez’s PSOE party finally won 121* seats (up 1 from 2019) – and with the promised support of Sumar (31 seats), he currently has a confirmed total of 152 seats backing him.

[*Figures above incude the final count of ballots from Friday night, that now include the votes from Spaniards living abroad]

Sumar brings together 15 small left-wing parties (including Podemos, the PSOE’s previous junior coalition partner), and is led by the current second Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz.

As with the previous PSOE-Podemos coalition, Sánchez now has to seek the support from other minor parties, including the Catalan pro-independence parties and the Basque nationalists, in search of the 24 seats required to reach the 176 majority.

So what happens next?

The PP has urged the PSOE to abstain in a parliamentary vote and allow Feijóo to become prime minister. But such a scenario is highly unlikely given the traditional animosity between the two parties, and particularly between Feijóo and Sánchez.

Taking office as a minority government would also leave the PP fighting for its survival on nearly every piece of legislation it introduces. Besides Vox, the PP has few allies in the Spanish Congress.

Possible Catalan and Basque support for Pedro Sánchez?

The Catalan pro-independence parties hold the real key to Pedro Sánchez’s bid to now continue as prime minister. 

Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC) both won 7 seats each in the Spanish Congress, and those 14 seats will be crucial to the PSOE leader.

Basque parties EH Bildu and PNV won 6 and 5 seats respectively, while single seats were also won by Galician party BNG, the Canaries Coalition, and Navarra’s UPN.  

After the 2019 election, the PSOE and Podemos were able to take power thanks to the support of PNV and BNG, plus the abstentions of ERC and EH Bildu.

Now, in 2023, Sánchez’s PSOE socialists (with 121 seats) left-wing candidacy in coalition with Sumar (31), plus pro-independence ERC (7) and Basque parties EH Bildu (6) and PNV (5) could add up to 170 seats. The ERC, EH Bildu and PNV have all previously said that they would support or abstain in a vote for Sánchez, albeit with certain demands. What is clear is that these parties would not support a right-wing coalition that included Vox.

Sánchez now needs JxCat’s 7 seats to be re-elected as Prime Minister. An abstention by the party would not be enough, as it would still leave him with 170 votes against the potential right-wing parties’ total of 171. [In our calculations we have assumed that the Galician party BNG and the Canaries Coalition will both abstain].

The major hurdle for Sánchez is now securing the support of the JxCat party. The party’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, is a member of the European Parliament, living in Belgium. But he is also wanted by Spanish justice and faces possible extradition to stand trial for staging the illegal independence push in 2017. ALSO READ: Puigdemont claims PSOE offered him a pardon in exchange for surrendering to Spanish justice.

JxCat officials have already said they will want something in return for doing a deal with Sánchez. The specter of them demanding an independence referendum for Catalonia as their price would open up a Pandora’s box for both Spain and Sánchez, and something that the socialist leader has vowed not to accept.

Prospect of another election?

Spain’s new parliament will meet in a month, later in August. In accordance with official procedure, king Felipe VI is then expected to invite one of the party leaders, Feijóo or Sánchez, to try to form a government.

That leader would then put his candidacy to parliamentary votes. Any candidate getting sufficient support can form a government.

The 350 MPs have up to three months to reach an agreement. Otherwise, a new election would be triggered.

ALSO READ: Right-wing fuels ‘Trumpist’ accusations of electoral fraud as Spain hits postal vote record.

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