The snap election —it was due in principle for 2020— had been called by Spanish president (prime minister) Pedro Sánchez after he could not hold together an unstable majority made up by his own centre-left PSOE plus left-wing Podemos and Catalan pro-independence ERC and PDeCAT. Three Spanish nationalist, right-wing parties (liberal C’s, conservative PP and far-right Vox) hoped to gain an alternative majority to unseat Sánchez.
In the end, however, the right-wing trio was yesterday left with 159 seats, not enough to achieve the absolute majority, at 176. PSOE won by a relative wide margin and now has the option to seek two different deals: one to the left with Podemos and ERC or other smaller parties of stateless nations and peoples, or one to the right with C’s only.
One previous explanation on the Spanish Parliament...
Spain has a bicameral Parliament (the Cortes Generales) made up of the Congress (lower house) which has a final say over legislation, and the Senate (upper house), which has a secondary role but that interestingly is the chamber that triggers the suspension of devolution to autonomous communities (this has only happened once, in October 2017, when the Senate passed the suspension of Catalan autonomy following the failed Catalonia’s declaration of independence).
Any candidate to be elected president of the Spanish government needs to seek the support from the 350-member Congress. In a first vote, the candidate needs to receive the backing of an absolute majority of the members, that is 176. If he or she does not achieve that figure, then a second vote will be held, in which the candidate only needs to have a simple majority.
1. Catalonia: ERC’s new hegemony that could hold the key in the Spanish Congress
For the first time since the 1930s, Republican Left (ERC, pro-independence centre-left) won a Spanish election in Catalonia, with 24.6% of the votes and 15 seats (up from 9 in 2016) out of 48. Another pro-independence party, Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya (liberal, new brand of PDeCAT), captured a further 7 seats (down from 8), which means Catalan secessionist parties for the first time will hold a combined 22 seats in the Congress.
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez can try to form a majority in Congress by adding the 123 seats won by PSOE to the 57 won by Citizens’ Party (C’s). But C’s leader Albert Rivera insisted after the vote that there is no option for his party to support Sánchez and PSOE this time, thus implying that the Spanish president will need to seek a deal to the left.
To do that, PSOE will need to form a majority with Podemos (35 seats) and their Catalan partners of En Comú Podem (7 seats) plus at least one more party, which could be ERC. The Catalan pro-independence party has insisted that Sánchez should agree to relaunch talks between the Catalan and Spanish governments to look for a solution to the Catalonia-Spain conflict. Positions are however distant, as ERC says a referendum on Catalonia’s independence should be agreed, while PSOE rejects it.
2. PP’s old Valencian stronghold falls apart
Spanish conservative, right-wing Popular Party (PP) had got 53% of the votes in the Valencian Country in the 2011 election. Yesterday, just 8 years after, it fell to a mere 18%. That means a historic disaster for a party that, until 2018, held the Spanish government, when a vote of no confidence unseated president Mariano Rajoy and allowed Pedro Sánchez to take office.
The other two Spanish right-wing parties grew in the Valencian Country thanks in part to PP’s demise: C’s (18%) and far-right Vox (12%).
3. Dual voting gives little chance to Valencian, Mallorcan parties
Valencian party Compromís (centre-left, pro-autonomy with federalist and even some sovereigntist leanings) secured one seat in the Spanish Congress by capturing 6,4% of the votes and 172,700 ballots.
But yesterday, Valencians were voting not only to elect their representatives to the Spanish legislature, but also for the 99-member Corts, or substate autonomous Parliament of the Valencian Country. In that election, Compromís polled much better, with 16,4% of the votes and 440,000 ballots.
This means that dual voting —that is, voters supporting one party in the Valencian election and a different one in the Spanish election— remains a persistent practice that diminishes chances of parties such as Compromís in the Spanish elections.
This also happened in the Balearic Islands, where a coalition of left-wing, pro-sovereignty parties (Progressive Voices) captured 25,000 votes, while in the Balearic election of 2015 they got some 65,000. Progressive Voices was thus left with no representative in the Spanish Congress —they have never had one.
4. Spain’s right-wing parties capture no seats in Euskadi...
None of the 18 seats at stake in Euskadi (Basque Country) was captured by a Spanish right-wing party, which equals to a striking, disastrous result for them. Basque pro-autonomy PNV (centre-right) won 6 seats (up from 5 in 2016) while left-wing pro-independence Bildu captured 4 (up from 2). PSOE and Podemos won 4 each.
5. ...but their right-wing alliance wins in neighbouring Navarre
Basque nationalist parties in Navarre (Bildu and Geroa Bai, PNV’s alliance in the territory) won no seats even if Bildu was about to win one until the very end of the count. In the end, an alliance made up of PP, C’s and Navarrese regionalist party UPN captured 2 seats, while PSOE won another 2 and Podemos 1.
6. BNG gets stronger in Galicia but wins no seat
Left-wing, pro-sovereignty Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) used to have 2 seats in the Spanish Congress but lost both in 2015 after several splinter groups had left the party. In 2016 it got is worst result (45.000 votes) but now it seems to start overcoming that situation, with 93,000 votes captured this time.
Even if this figure has not granted BNG a seat in Congress, it looks as if the party has now better chances to perform better at the next Galician election, due for 2020. Some of the splinters rejoining BNG is now a possibility.
7. Canary Islands party makes gains
Pro-autonomy, centre-right Canarian Coalition (CC) captured 2 seats (up from 1 in 2016) after growing from 8% to 13% of the votes. Another Canary Islands party, the Socialist Rally for La Gomera (ASG), won a seat in the Senate.
Another pro-autonomy, centre-left party (New Canarias, NCa) did not manage to win any seats, but hopes to retain some level of significant support in the upcoming election to the Canary Islands Parliament in May 2019.
Besides them, left-wing pro-independence Ahora Canarias alliance made its election debut with quite a low result (0,3% of the votes).
8. No pro-sovereignty vote in Asturias or Aragon
ERC, Bildu and BNG have struck a deal with left-wing, pro-sovereignty parties in Asturias (Andecha Astur) and Aragon (Puyalón de Cuchas) to run under one single banner, Ahora Repúblicas, for the upcoming European election. Both Andecha and Puyalón ran too for yesterday’s Spanish election, gaining very low vote shares.
As regards Andecha, it captured 900 votes —0.15% of the total— in Asturias, where PSOE and Podemos gained more share that in the rest of Spain. On the other hand, Puyalón received 800 votes —0.11% of the share— in Aragon.
Bearing in mind that centre-left, federalist Chunta did not run this time in Aragon, it became evident that an overwhelming majority of its voters were not ready or willing to throw their support behind a more sovereigntist alternative.
9. Far-right Vox makes gains in Andalusia 5 months after last vote
The Andalusian election of December 2018 was the first one in which far-right Vox made it into a Spanish substate legislative assembly, capturing 400,000 votes at the time which equaled to 11% of the total. After having struck a deal to support a coalition government in Andalusia made up by PP and C’s, the far-right party made further gains yesterday in the Spanish election by receiving 600,000 ballots, that is 13% of the total share, very close to Podemos.
Still, PSOE —which lost power in Andalusia after the PP-C’s-Vox deal— again emerged the largest party in the Spanish election, with 34% of the votes.
Federalist, Andalusian nationalist Andalucía por Sí party failed to secure any seats in Congress after receiving a mere 11,500 votes —0,25% in Andalusia. Left-wing Andalusian parties had decided not to contest the vote this time.
10. Regionalist upsurge in Cantabria and Melilla
Besides all these parties seeking to represent stateless nations and peoples, a bunch of regionalist parties elsewhere in Spain were also running for election. Only one of them, the Regionalist Party of Cantabria (PRC), achieved to win one seat in the Spanish Congress for the first time (52,000 votes or 14.6% of the votes in Cantabria).
In the North African autonomous city of Melilla, regionalist Coalition for Melilla (CpM) was about to win a seat either in Congress or Senate. But in the final count, PP retained representation in both chambers —in the Senate, CpM was only 650 votes left to win its first seat ever.