Spanish Political Deadlock Remains Amid Sanchez’s Political Gamble

After months of negotiations with all political parties, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that his country is going to the polls on 10th November, for the fourth time in the last four years. Despite quickly gaining popularity for his pro-European and pro-migration leftist policies, Sanchez didn’t manage to end the deadlock in the parliament. His remarkable political moves such as taking in migrants from the Aquarius ship and exhuming the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco, didn’t let him enjoy the support that he mostly had from foreign media. Ambitious politics put forward by Sanchez’s Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) failed to attract other political parties, left the party alone in talks, and faced accusations by others of not being interested in finding a solution for the country.

The emergence of two new political parties, Unidos Podemos, Ciudadanos and Vox, had a clear impact on Spain’s traditional two-party system. The 2008 economic crisis and several other political crises sharply erased the credibility towards classic political parties which are the above-mentioned PSOE and Partido Popular (PP), representing the centre-left and centre-right of the country. The centre-right Ciudadanos Party of Albert Rivera gained 13%, while leftist Unidos Podemos of Pablo Iglesias obtained 14.3% of the votes in the April 2019 national election. These two parties were the main coalition objectives of Pedro Sanchez, however things didn’t end well. Sanchez failed in coalition talks with both Ciudadanos and Unidos Podemos. The PSOE leader blamed both political parties for showing less interest in finding a solution for the country, while other political parties accused Sanchez of “not wanting to form a coalition” or “not under the nature of multi-party politics.” Such an impasse may even become an opportunity for a breakthrough for political parties like the far-right Vox Party, which is continuing to increase votes according to pollsters. Others such as the left-wing Mas Pais of Inigo Errejon and Catalan and Basque separatist parties, for now, look to play a minor role in November’s election.

Amid ongoing political tensions, the problem of Catalonian separatists didn’t help Pedro Sanchez enough during his efforts to form the new government. Some of the political parties accused Sanchez of not showing a clear stance in the Catalonia independence debate, a topic which pushes Spanish voters towards nationalist parties. The acting Prime Minister was strongly criticized for a long time by right wing parties; Partido Popular and Ciudadanos, for appeasing Catalans, hoping to have them as an alternative for a coalition government. However, this approach invited a twist when Madrid started crackdowns on accused Catalan separatists around the country. In one of the most important examples, at the end of September, several people connected with the Catalan independence movement were arrested on terror-linked charges and possession of explosives. This change of mind may become another important argument when it comes to forming alliances between political parties. PSOE’s way of thinking the Catalonia issue in a ‘right’ way may become a positive mark for right-wing parties, especially Ciudadanos, which frequently slammed PSOE’s conciliatory tone. It shows that Sanchez may have a greater chance to impress right- wing electors and parties, paving the way for a more centrist coalition government in Spain.

Polls ahead of the elections show that, again, none of the parties will have full majority. Despite Pedro Sanchez’s self-confidence, he may even fall shorter than before. However, PSOE doesn’t seem to be the only leftist political party to lose ground as Unidos Podemos may also suffer another blow after losing a key opportunity to form one of the few leftist coalition governments within the European Union. Meanwhile, numbers show that right wing political parties may gather more voters in the upcoming ballot. Surveys show that Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and even the Vox and Mas Pais parties are expected to raise their numbers. Although pollsters expect some moves from the left towards the right bloc, it seems difficult to see a right-wing government in Spain, at least after November’s polls.

Looking at the indications, it is fair to expect another election stalemate in Spain. In November, the negotiation skills of politicians will be tested once again. Pedro Sanchez will find himself in a position where he needs to build a dialogue between different political parties with different expectations. During the last coalition talks, Sanchez was accused of having less willingness towards conceding to other political parties when it came to forming
the government. After the last election, Sanchez asked electors to “speak more clearly,” adding that his party is the only viable alternative. It is fair to say that the PSOE will possibly become the political party with the most votes in the upcoming election. However, the most decisive part of the vote will be the coalition talks as this may be the last opportunity for Pedro Sanchez to secure a deal to put his country and political career back on track despite numerous political, economic and social uncertainties.