Spanish Elections: Will Sanchez’s political gamble pay off?
The final pre-Election Day opinion polls showed PP with a comfortable lead over the Socialists but short of an outright majority without Vox’s support. Even then, the two parties could still fall short of the parliamentary seats needed to form a right-wing coalition.
In Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, a political experiment is underway: Last month, in the wake of regional elections that saw the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) take a drubbing across the country, the traditional centerright Popular Party (PP) teamed up with the ascendant far-right party Vox to form a governing coalition. The Valencian power-sharing deal is not unprecedented at the regional level in Spain. But after center-left Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called snap parliamentary elections for July 23 — elections were originally slated for later this year — the eastern coastal city represents a glimpse of what might happen on the national level if Sanchez’s electoral gamble goes awry. After four years in government, the coalition between the Socialists and its far-left junior partner Unidas Podemos (“United We Can”) could easily lose power.
The final pre-Election Day opinion polls showed PP with a comfortable lead over the Socialists but short of an outright majority without Vox’s support. Even then, the two parties could still fall short of the parliamentary seats needed to form a right-wing coalition. That’s especially true because the gap between the two major parties has closed in recent weeks.
Sumar, a new left-wing alliance which includes Unidas Podemos, is running neck-and-neck with Vox and could potentially team up with the Socialists to give Sanchez a second term. With just days to go until Election Day, the outcome remains to be seen. But if Spain indeed swings to the right, it may well follow recent electoral trends in other European countries like Italy, Finland, Sweden and Greece — all of which saw an upswing in support for right-wing parties in recent national elections.
Vox, which was founded in 2013 and first gained seats in the Spanish parliament in 2019, has instrumentalised its hardline positions on social issues and immigration to steadily build its support in recent years. On Valencia’s coastal promenade, some passers-by were clearly alarmed by the prospect. “It’s totally insane — the worst thing that could happen to this country,” one woman with strong thoughts on a PP-Vox national government said. Many who oppose Vox fear the ultra conservative approach it takes to social issues.
“They want to scrap the abortion law; they want to get rid of the euthanasia law; they say that gender violence doesn’t exist,” a younger woman from Madrid told DW. “It all makes me really scared.” The Sanchez-led government has pushed through a string of socially progressive policies combating gender violence, tightening rape laws, making it easier for people to legally change their gender, and loosening abortion restrictions. Vox, meanwhile, represents the antithesis of the Sanchez government’s social policies: It wants to repeal the transgender law among others, is staunchly anti-immigration, criticizes the European Union, and is skeptical about the need to fight climate change with decisive policy.
PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo has tried to distance his party from some of Vox’s more extreme positions, but Vox leader Santiago Abascal may well emerge as the post-Election Day kingmaker on Sunday. Not everyone on Valencia’s promenade was pessimistic about the prospect of a PP-Vox government: “It gives me a bit of hope,” one man said. “The model here in Valencia would certainly be a good solution for the whole country after the election.”