MADRID (AP) – Spain may be facing a political deadlock and possibly new elections, but a national vote produced an outcome that will be welcomed in all European capitals: a far-right party that aims to do so Take hold of the levers of power was foiled.
Spain’s ultra-nationalist Vox party lost voter support in Sunday’s election, dashed hopes of becoming kingmaker and joining a coalition government that would have given the far right a share of power in Spain for the first time since Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the 20th century.
The mainstream conservative People’s Party won the election but fared well behind polling data that had forecast a possible fall Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez if it formed a government with Vox as a junior partner.
Although Sánchez’s Socialists finished second, they and their allied parties hailed the result as victory, as their combined forces won slightly more seats than the Popular Party and Vox. The bloc that would likely support Sánchez had a total of 172 seats, while the right-wing parties had 170 seats.
“This is a great victory for the left,” said Dr. Jason Xidias, a political science lecturer at New York University’s Madrid campus, on Monday.
Political horse-trading in the coming weeks, when smaller regional parties could offer their support for a government in exchange for concessions, will be “very complicated,” Xidias said.
The closer than expected result questioned the future leadership of Spain. But the People’s Party insisted that it should not be denied the chance to form a government.
“No one would understand now if (other parties) all came together to prevent the party that won the elections from taking over the government,” PP Deputy Secretary Miguel Tellado told public broadcaster RTVE on Monday.
Sánchez put together Spain’s first-ever coalition government, which took power in January 2020. Sánchez has been Spain’s prime minister since 2018.
Socialist voter Delphine Fernández said she hopes Sánchez can remain in power. She is keeping her fingers crossed that she and the 37 million Spaniards called to vote don’t have to repeat what they did in 2019, when Sánchez had to win back-to-back elections before he could form a coalition government.
“It was always difficult. Now we’re (virtually) undecided, but let’s see if we can still govern,” said Fernández, a lawyer. “I don’t want to vote again in a few weeks. It’s now or never.”
But the chances of Sánchez gaining the support of the 176 MPs needed for an outright majority in Madrid’s lower house of parliament are slim.
Because of the shared results, the Catalan separatist party Junts (Together) is key to forming Sánchez’s government. But if Junts were to call for a referendum on independence for north-east Catalonia, it would probably be far too high a price for Sánchez.
“We will not make Pedro Sánchez prime minister for nothing,” said Míriam Nogueras of Junts.
After counting all the votes, the People’s Party collected 136 of the 350 seats to be allocated. Even with the 33 seats won by the far-right Vox and one seat going to an allied party, the PP was still seven seats short of a majority.
The Socialists got 122 seats, two more than before. Sánchez could likely draw on the 31 seats of his junior coalition partner Sumar (Joining Forces) and several smaller parties to collectively achieve at least more than the sum of the right-wing parties, but would also fall four seats short of the majority if Junts does not join them.
“Spain and all the citizens who voted made it clear. The backward-looking bloc that wanted to undo everything we’ve done has failed,” Sánchez told a cheering crowd gathered at the Socialist headquarters in Madrid.
After his party lost regional and local elections in May, Sánchez could have waited until December to hold a national vote. Instead, he stunned his rivals He has upped the vote count in hopes of gaining more impetus from his supporters.
Sánchez can add this election night to yet another comeback in a career that has been about defying all odds. The 51-year-old had to foment a mutiny among rank and file socialists to get back to the top of his party before winning Spain’s only no-confidence vote in 2018, ousting his predecessor in the PP.
PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijóo Reaching a majority seemed even more unlikely.
Feijóo focused the PP’s election campaign on what he described as Sánchez’s lack of credibility. The Socialists and other left-wing parties, meanwhile, feared Vox could be in power as a junior partner in a PP-led coalition.
A PP-Vox government would have meant another EU member would have moved significantly to the right, a trend seen recently in Sweden. Finland And Italy. Countries like Germany and France are concerned about the impact such a shift would have on EU immigration and climate policies.
However, Vox lost 19 seats from four years earlier. The election took place during Spain’s six-month parliamentary term rotating presidency of the European Union, and a strong Vox performance would have sent shockwaves through EU politics.
Feijóo tried to distance the PP from Vox during the election campaign. But Sánchez made sure the election campaign coincided with the period when the PP and Vox wanted to co-govern town halls and regional governments after the May elections.
Vox campaigned for the repeal of gender-based violence legislation. And both the PP and Vox agreed that they want to repeal a new transgender rights law and a democratic remembrance law designed to help families locate the thousands of victims of the Franco regime who are still missing in mass graves.
“PP was a victim of his expectations and the Socialists were able to capitalize on fears of Vox’s arrival. “Moving forward the elections has proven to be the right decision for Pedro Sánchez,” said Manuel Mostaza, director of public policy at Spanish consultancy Atrevia.
Spain’s new parliament will meet in a month. King Felipe VI then appoints one of the party leaders to submit to a parliamentary vote on the formation of a new government. The legislature has a maximum of three months to reach an agreement. Otherwise there would be new elections.
Wilson reported from Barcelona. AP journalists Aritz Parra, Renata Brito, David Brunat, Iain Sullivan, María Gestoso, Alicia Léon, and José María García contributed to this report.