Political deadlock continues in Spain despite Socialist victory

Pedro Sánchez's party again fails to reach majority, while far-right Vox more than doubles its seats to take third place

Spain's acting president Pedro Sánchez (by PSOE)
Spain's acting president Pedro Sánchez (by PSOE) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 10, 2019 10:46 PM

While Pedro Sánchez's Socialist Party (PSOE) won Sunday's general election and almost maintained its number of seats in Congress, it again left PSOE without a big enough majority to form a government, and so the Spanish parliament remains deadlocked.

The Socialists got 123 seats in April and this time won 120 seats, while the conservative People's Party (PP) recovered from 66 to 87 seats. Yet, the most notable change was the continued rise of far-right Vox, which more than doubled its number of seats to 52.

The large surge of Vox meant that left-wing Unidas Podemos party fell further down the pecking order dropping 7 seats to 35, although the center-right unionist Cuidadanos party went into total freefall, shedding 47 seats to just 10.

Big gain for pro-independence parties

That means that the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana Party (ERC) of jailed former vice president, Oriol Junqueras, is on course to surpass Ciudadanos, again winning among Catalan parties, although dropping 2 seats to 13.

Despite ERC losing 2 seats, the pro-independence bloc in the Congress actually went up from April, with Junts per Catalunya increasing its number of seats to 8 (up 1), and far-left CUP entering the Spanish parliament for the first time with 2 seats.

Between them, the three pro-independence parties now have a total of 23 seats in the Spanish parliament, which is below the 50% threshold of all the seats available for Catalonia, but an all-time high in a Spànish election.

Party leaders react to results

Offering, and calling for, "generosity and responsibility," Sánchez responded to his party's victory, saying, "it's not our plan to continue winning elections, but to form a stable government and to do politics that benefits the majority of Spaniards."

As for PP leader, Pablo Casado, he was euphoric over his party's recovery in the polls and insisted that "Sánchez has lost his referendum. He is today's big loser. Spaniards have carried out their own motion of no confidence in Sánchez."

Vox's Santiago Abascal welcomed his party's striking performance in the election, saying it constituted "a patriotic alternative and a social alternative that demands national unity and the restoration of constitutional order in Catalonia."

Meanwhile, the leader of the Podemos party that Vox leapfrogged, Pablo Iglesias, repeated his offer of a deal with the Socialists, "appealing to his [Sánchez`s] sense of responsibility so that he sits down with us and respects the election result."

The biggest loser on the night, the head of Cuidadanos, Albert Rivera, put his future in the hands of the party: "I accept responsibility and call an urgent executive meeting to debate the poor results and choose a new direction.

Second election in less than a year

After ruling out accepting support from the Catalan pro-independence parties and unable to reach a coalition agreement with Podemos, and with the conservative parties refusing to abstain, Sánchez was forced to call the November 10 snap election.

However, turnout for this election was lower than six months ago, when in Catalonia it was the second-highest in history. At 6pm, turnout was more than four points less than the 71% on April 28, with a similar fall registered in Catalonia.

The election result means that neither the left-wing bloc nor the right-wing bloc in Congress have enough seats to pass the 176-seat threshold required for a majority. That means Sánchez will have reach agreements with other parties to be invested on the first vote.

Yet, should the vote to invest a new president go to a second round, and even if PP agrees to abstain, Sánchez would not have enough votes from his party alone to get even the simple majority required and so would need to find more support in the chamber.