After Six Months of Gridlock, Little Could Change in Spain

Mariano Rajoy’s conservatives are expected to fall short of a majority. The Socialists will hold the balance.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy on his way to a voting station, June 26
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy on his way to a voting station, June 26 (PP)

It’s hard to write anything new about Spain’s elections today. Six months after the last one, it looks like we’ll be back where we started when all the votes have been counted.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservatives are almost certain to remain the largest party but will — if the polls are correct — once again fall short of a majority. A center-right coalition with the Ciudadanos wouldn’t have the numbers either.

There is a chance the two parties of the left will find a majority: the mainstream Socialist Workers’ Party and the far-left Podemos, now in an alliance with the communist-led United Left.

Either way, the Socialists will hold the balance of power. They could either go into coalition with Podemos, probably as the junior party, or allow a conservative-led minority government to come to power. (They tried a minority government of their own with the Ciudadanos last time, but that didn’t work.)

Lesser of two evils

Shaun Riordan argued at the Atlantic Sentinel earlier this week that the second option is more likely. Many left-wing voters will hate it, but the Socialist Party establishment would hate propping up a Podemos-led government even more.

Not to mention that Podemos and the United Left have some pretty reckless ideas, from defaulting on Spain’s debts to renationalizing industries to overturning labor reforms.

Left-wing unity

Joop van den Berg, formerly of Leiden University, has made the opposite argument, if not specifically about the situation in Spain.

He writes that social democrats across Europe have the same problem: their traditional working-class base is defecting to populists either on the far left or the right while left-leaning professionals are tempted to switch to unambiguously cosmopolitan parties, like social liberals or Greens.

The only way to stop this hemorrhaging, according to Van den Berg, is for social democrats to ally permanently with the other parties of the left.

In the case of Spain’s Socialists, though, it doesn’t look like they’ll be willing to pay the price for such unity quite yet.

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