Legislative in Spain: Sanchez counts on “the fear of the arrival of the far right”

Spain goes to the polls on Sunday for early legislative elections. Despite negative opinion polls, the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, hopes to win by remobilizing the left in the face of the risk of a coalition between the conservatives in the Popular Party and the extreme right in Vox, according to Maria Elisa Alonso, a political scientist specializing in Spain.

In the heat wave, Spaniards will go to the polls on Sunday 23 July to elect their representatives in early legislative elections. A ballot that looks like a poker game for the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez.

The socialist leader, in power since 2018, called these elections after the series of setbacks the left suffered in the twin municipal and regional elections on May 28, in favor of the conservatives of the People’s Party (PP, right). They seized many town halls and parts of the country from the left. The extreme right, represented by the Vox party – led by Santiago Abascal – had also made a breakthrough.

The day after this electoral debacle, Pedro Sanchez, to everyone’s surprise, had announced the dissolution of parliament and the calling of early legislative elections, as they were originally supposed to be held at the end of the year.

The outgoing head of the Spanish government thus puts his position back on the field. A seat that he may lose in the event of the defeat of the left in this parliamentary election. France 24 analyzes the problems with Maria Elisa Alonso, political scientist and teacher-researcher at the University of Lorraine, specialist in Spain and Latin America.

Maria Elisa Alonso: For months there has been an anti-Sanchez discourse that has been present, emanating from PP or from Vox. The opposition campaigned against Sanchez, intending to undo any measures he took. We can see in the press, “‘end with ‘Sanchismo'”. It is around this question that the entire campaign has revolved.

The opposition particularly criticized Pedro Sanchez for having appealed to a certain Basque independence party, EH-Bildu, to approve e.g. the Housing Act.

Paradoxically, the economy is not a decisive issue in the election. The financial results are good. Inflation is not rising. 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 put forward during the campaign were social issues and those that e.g. was linked to LGBT rights, euthanasia… anything that somehow has to do with ‘traditional’ principles. If it happens to the government, the PP has already said that, with or without Vox, it would like to reform the law on LGBT rights or repeal the euthanasia law.

What do the polls say about voting intentions?

According to all the opinion polls, the People’s Party (PP) would win the election. The Socialist Party (PSOE) would come second, a stone’s throw from the PP. Spain is a highly polarized society, which explains why there is minimal difference between the two forces.

To be invested president (of the government, note), it is necessary to have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies (176 deputies). All the opinion polls currently give around 150 deputies for the People’s Party, which does not constitute an absolute majority. Everything will depend on the political force that comes third in the poll. This is where it all comes down to.

Different opinion polls sometimes give Vox, sometimes Sumar (left-wing coalition, editor’s note) in third place, with a difference of one or two deputies. So anything can happen. And we cannot say for sure who will come in third place. It is played with few voices. Everything seems to confirm that it will be the PP that will win the election, it remains to be seen if it will need Vox.

Does Pedro Sanchez have his chances despite the left’s debacle in the municipal and regional ? What are its strengths ?

I think he can stay in power. After the municipal and regional double vote, we saw that PP needed Vox to form coalition governments at regional and local level. And during the campaign, Pedro Sanchez used the fear of the far right’s arrival in government to mobilize left-wing voters, who are generally demobilized by nature. Pedro Sanchez is not playing on his popularity.

Furthermore, the PP only has Vox as a natural ally, and perhaps also one or two small regional forces, but which do not represent many deputies.

On the other hand, Pedro Sanchez can team up with Sumar and regional and local parties. It has a much wider range of options than PP. For example, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) – a neoliberal formation that is 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 defeat for the left and victory for the People’s Party, will the latter necessarily have to enter into an alliance with the extreme right?

If it fails to have 176 deputies, the PP will necessarily be obliged to form an alliance with Vox. He has already done that after the municipal and regional elections. For example, in the region of Extremadura (Extremadura, western Spain, editor’s note), the president was invested thanks to a coalition with Vox.

Furthermore, PP voters do not perceive this connection between the two political forces negatively. It should be remembered that the leader of Vox was the leader of the PP in the Basque Country region for twenty years.

Apart from some things specific to the extreme right, such as denial of climate change or non-recognition of macho violence, they are quite close to other principles of the PP, such as the euthanasia law or certain economic issues.

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