Spain goes to the polls on Sunday for early legislative elections. Despite the negative polls, the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, hopes to win by remobilizing the left at the risk of a coalition between the conservatives of the Popular Party and the extreme right of Vox, according to María Elisa Alonso, a political scientist specializing in Spain.
In the midst of a heat wave, the Spanish will go to the polling stations on Sunday, July 23, to elect their deputies, during the early legislative elections. It looks like a game of poker for the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez.
The socialist leader, in power since 2018, called these elections after the series of setbacks suffered by the left during the double municipal and regional elections on May 28, in favor of the conservative Popular Party (PP, right). Many municipalities and regions of the country were seized from the left. The extreme right, represented by the Vox party – headed by Santiago Abascal – had also made great progress.
The day after this electoral debacle, Pedro Sánchez had announced, to everyone’s surprise, the dissolution of Parliament and the call for early legislative elections, when they were initially going to be held at the end of the year.
The outgoing head of the Spanish Government is once again putting his position at stake, a chair that he could lose in the event of a defeat for the left in these legislative elections. France 24 analyzes the issues with María Elisa Alonso, a political scientist and teacher-researcher at the University of Lorraine, a specialist in Spain and Latin America.
France 24: Pedro Sánchez makes a risky bet in these early legislative elections, in which the extreme right could come to power. What are the opposition’s criticisms of the Prime Minister’s record?
Maria Elisa Alonso: For months there has been an anti-Sánchez discourse that has been present, emanating from the PP or Vox. The opposition campaigned against Sánchez, with the intention of repealing any measure he took. We can see in the press, “end with ‘Sanchismo.” The entire campaign has revolved around this question.
The opposition especially criticized Pedro Sánchez for having appealed to a certain Basque independence party, EH-Bildu, to approve, for example, the housing law.
Paradoxically, the economy is not a crucial issue in the elections. The economic results are good. Inflation does not skyrocket. Spain is doing well. The opposition has no interest in including this issue, like international issues, in the campaign.
On the other hand, what was raised during the campaign were social issues and those linked, for example, to LGBTIQ+ rights, euthanasia… everything that has to do with ‘traditional’ principles in some way. If it happens to the Government, the PP has already said that, with or without Vox, it would like to reform the LGBTIQ+ rights law, or repeal the euthanasia law.
What do the polls say about the intention to vote?
According to all the polls, the Popular Party (PP) would win the elections. The Socialist Party (PSOE) would be second, a stone’s throw from the PP. Spain is a very polarized society, which explains why there is a minimal difference between the two forces.
To be sworn in as president (of the government, note), it is necessary to have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies (176 deputies). All the surveys give, for the moment, around 150 deputies for the Popular Party, which does not constitute an absolute majority. Everything will depend on the political force that comes out third on the ballot. This is where it all comes down to it.
Different polls sometimes give Vox, sometimes Sumar (left-wing coalition, editor’s note) in third position, with a difference of one or two deputies. So anything can happen. And we can’t say for sure who will come in third. It will be played with a few votes. Everything seems to confirm that it will be the PP that wins the elections, it remains to be seen if it will need Vox.
Does Pedro Sánchez have his chances despite the debacle of the left in the municipal and regional elections? What are his strengths?
I think he can stay in power. After the municipal and regional double round, we saw that the PP needed Vox to form coalition governments at the regional and local level. And during the campaign, Pedro Sánchez took advantage of the fear of the arrival of the extreme right in the Government to mobilize the leftist electorate, generally demobilized by nature. Pedro Sánchez does not play with his popularity.
In addition, the PP only has Vox as a natural ally, and perhaps also one or two small regional forces, but they do not represent many deputies.
On the other hand, Pedro Sánchez can join forces with Sumar and regional and local parties. He has a much wider range of possibilities than the PP. For example, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) – a neoliberal formation quite close to the PP on economic issues – has said that he will never support the PP if Vox is part of the coalition program.
In the event of the defeat of the left and victory of the Popular Party, will the latter necessarily have to ally with the extreme right?
If it does not have 176 deputies, the PP will necessarily be forced to ally with Vox. It has already done so after the municipal and regional elections. For example, in the Extremadura region, the president was sworn in thanks to a coalition with Vox.
In addition, the PP electorate does not negatively perceive this connection between the two political forces. It should be remembered that the Vox leader was the leader of the PP, in the Basque Country region, for twenty years.
Apart from some things typical of the extreme right, such as the denial of climate change or the non-recognition of sexist violence, they are quite close to other principles with the PP, such as the euthanasia law or certain economic issues.