Last night’s general elections in Spain last night left a number of parties celebrating, old and new. However, without a majority in the parliament, the question of who will now lead the nation remains up in the air. The conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) won the most seats, 123 out of the 350 available, but lost its overall majority, paving the way for a coalition government. The main story of the night was the triumph of new kids on the block, Podemos (translated as ‘We can’) and Ciudadanos (Citizens). In its first general election, Podemos won 69 seats. The party only came into existence within the last two years but its anti-austerity, anti-corruption message won them almost 21% of the vote share. Similarly, newcomers and market-liberals, Ciudadanos (Citizens) won 40 seats in a four-way election race.
— Francisco Taveira (@jftaveira1993) December 21, 2015
Since the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s, following 39 years of fascist dictatorship, Spain’s governance has changed hands between the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and the Partido Popular and its earlier incarnations. However, the success of the new parties in this election has challenged this established political duopoly and has left the country without a majority in its parliament, with votes being wrestled from the older parties. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos declared that ‘Spain is not going to be the same anymore’, celebrating the success of the popular, grassroots movement, which will now have a strong hand at the negotiating table.
Many commentators have claimed that this year has opened a new era in Spanish politics, putting an end to a two-party system. Since the Partido Popular’s victory in 2011, the political backdrop of the country has changed significantly. Embroilment in a number of corruption scandals, such as the Bárcenas fiasco, had fuelled mistrust of the political classes and both Ciudadanos and Podemos have resolved to tackle this corruption. Podemos was also born out of the Indignados movement, a response to the financial crisis and the consequent austerity imposed by the Partido Popular.
In an already complicated country, marked by regions often governed by separatists, such as the Basque Country and Catalonia, this is an election which has been fought on many levels; left vs. right, old vs. new and nationalist vs. centralist.
Spanish messy result because voters deciding on so many variables: right/left, old/new, centralist/nationalist/separatist. Priorities mixed.
— Giles Tremlett (@gilestremlett) December 20, 2015
Now, the stumbling block for Spain is to reach a political agreement for governing the country within its complex dynamics. With the most votes, the leader of the Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy, is allowed the first attempt at forming a government but is unlikely to find many allies beyond Ciudadanos. Yesterday’s results show that there is a clear mood for change in Spain but political compromise may be necessary to achieve it.