On April 28, voters in Spain delivered a victory for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the country’s Socialist Worker’s Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español/PSOE). Sánchez became Prime Minister last June after he launched a vote of no confidence against his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, whose Partido Popular (PP) party was embroiled in a corruption scandal. The results of the recent election strengthen Mr. Sánchez’s position, as Socialists picked up 123 of the 350 seats in the Spanish parliament. These snap elections were called by Sánchez to help consolidate political power after he was unable to pass a budget earlier this year. Now that the election results are in, Mr. Sánchez will have to work to form a coalition government.
While the PSOE gained more seats, Spain is also experiencing a trend seen throughout Europe, the rise of far-right, nationalist parties. In Spain, Vox has emerged as the far-right party and picked up 10% of the vote and 24 seats in parliament. This makes Vox now the fifth-largest political party represented in parliament. Though slower to catch on in Spain than other countries in the EU, Vox is xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim, similar to other far-right parties throughout Europe. Vox is also known for being more conservative on issues such as women’s and LGBTQ rights. It remains to be seen how or if the growth of Vox will impact Spain’s national politics, and if this growth will be sustained or more fleeting.
One issue that loomed large over the election is Catalonia’s failed bid for independence in 2017. Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region of Spain that speaks its own language (Catalan), has its own distinct culture, and is one of the most prosperous regions in the country. In 2017, voters in Catalonia voted to secede from Spain and become independent. The Spanish government—under Mr. Rajoy at the time—responded strongly, first attempting to stop the referendum and then imposing direct rule over the region through June 2018 after the government declared the referendum illegal. This issue remains a point of contention in national politics and something that Mr. Sánchez must continue to navigate. While the PSOE does not support Catalonian independence, Mr. Sánchez has shown more of a willingness to negotiate with the Catalan leaders than his predecessor.
Mr. Sánchez must now wait until after May 26th to form a new coalition government. In the meantime, there will be additional local elections in Spain, as well as EU parliamentary elections.
In recent years, Spain has been one of the most welcoming countries to immigrants and migrants in the EU. While the rise of Vox is troublesome due to the party’s nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, they still currently only represent a small voting block in parliament. In his short tenure so far as Prime Minister, Mr. Sánchez has pushed a progressive agenda and has positioned Spain to be a leader in the EU on the issue of immigration. While Mr. Sánchez’s ability to put together a coalition government will be crucial, having a government in Spain that is not hostile toward immigration is good for the mobility industry. As always, Worldwide ERC® will keep members updated on this issue.