What to Expect from Snap Elections in Spain

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez could lose power unless Catalan independence parties change their minds.

The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017
The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017 (Shutterstock/Vivvi Smak)

Snap elections are likely in Spain after Catalan pro-independence parties joined the right-wing opposition in voting down Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ 2019 spending plan.

The Catalans gave Sánchez a majority to oust the People’s Party’s Mariano Rajoy in June. They demanded a legal independence referendum for their support, which Sánchez refused.

Here is how early elections could pan out.

Polls

  • Socialists (center-left): 22-26 percent
  • People’s Party (right): 19-23 percent
  • Citizens (center-right): 14-18 percent
  • Podemos (far left): 12-16 percent
  • Vox (far right): 9-12 percent
  • Catalan separatists (left and right): 4-5 percent
  • Other regionalists: ~2 percent

Possible coalitions

  • Socialists + Podemos + Catalans + other regionalists: Perhaps the Catalans will change their minds and support Sánchez again after the election. They are unlikely to get a more sympathetic prime minister. Expect the right to raise this prospect in a bid for centrist voters, which may compel Sánchez to rule it out.
  • Socialists + Podemos + other regionalists: Currently does not have a majority, but this could change. Such a coalition would allow Sánchez to continue his anti-austerity agenda and likely maintain the status quo in Catalonia.
  • Socialists + Citizens: This is the coalition Sánchez tried in 2015, but it didn’t have a majority at the time. It would be more centrist, pro-European, but less sympathetic to the Catalan independence movement. Sánchez is unlikely to agree with the Citizens to suspend Catalan home rule, but they would block him from transferring more autonomy to the region.
  • Citizens + People’s Party + Vox: The only combination that has a majority in the polls. Currently being tried in Andalusia, but the prospect of putting the far right in power nationally could scare away voters from the mainstream right. All three parties argue for the suspension of Catalan home rule.