After Spanish left’s crushing defeat in local elections, Pedro Sánchez calls for snap elections on July 23

Santiago Abascal, leader of the conservative party VOX at an election rally. (Source: Shutterstock)
By Olivier Bault
11 Min Read

Spaniards voted on Sunday to elect their regional and municipal assemblies, and the results that came out of the ballot boxes do not bode well for Pedro Sánchez’s governing coalition of socialists, far-left populists, and communists.

The landslide victory of the center-right People’s Party (PP) and Vox’s conservatives in Sunday’s local and regional elections came after a campaign marred by attempts by members of the prime minister’s socialist party (PSOE) to rig the election in some municipalities. There was also the usual hate speech directed at conservatives from government circles that has resulted in acts of physical violence by far-left extremists and the presence of former terrorists linked to the Basque Marxist organization (ETA) in the electoral lists of a regional far-left party, Bildu, which has been indispensable to maintaining Sٞánchez’s minority government in power.

Whereas those election irregularities have gone unnoticed in Brussels — where Europe’s left-liberal establishment seems to be preoccupied with democracy and the rule of law solely in member states ruled by right-wing conservatives — they have been heavily castigated by Spanish voters. These voters probably also had in mind the threat to democracy and the rule of law posed by the ruling coalition’s recent radical legislation, like the “Yes means yes” law, which has led to the liberation of hundreds of sexual offenders, and the “trans” law adopted this year, which is Europe’s most radical gender-ideology law and marks a real totalitarian drift.

Although the definitive results were not yet fully known on Monday, it was already clear that out of 17 autonomous regions in total and of the 12 where elections were held on Sunday, the center-right PP has now taken over at least six of the 10 that were governed by the socialists. The only region that was governed by the PSOE’s coalition partner, Podemos, together with far-left allies, the Valencia region, has fallen into the hands of the center-right too. However, the PP will need Vox to govern in several regions and not only, as until now, in Castile and León. This is not the case in Madrid, however, where the electoral list conducted by the region’s incumbent PP president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, obtained an absolute majority on Sunday.

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The PSOE’s far-left coalition partner Podemos lost the region of Valencia where it governed with other far-left parties, and it suffered heavy losses all over Spain, including in the capital city of Madrid, from which it originated and where it was wiped out of the municipal council.

A new competitor that had emerged from its ranks, another far-left party created by Sánchez’s labor minister, Sumar, was defeated everywhere, and its Catalan allies, whom it officially supported, lost their mayorships in the cities of Valencia and Barcelona. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s far-left coalition partners will now not be part of any regional government apart from Navarra where Podemos still stands a chance to be part of a coalition that would include Bildu, the party that had former terrorists on its list.

On Sunday, Podemos was completely wiped out in five of the 12 regional parliaments.

Meanwhile, Santiago Abascal’s conservative party Vox, which had made its first incursion in a regional parliament in Andalusia in 2018 and entered the national Congress of Deputies for the first time in 2019, will now be represented in all 12 regional parliaments that were renewed on Sunday in addition to the parliaments of Andalusia and Catalonia, which have elections at a different time.

Vox’s explosive rise

Vox was created in 2013 by conservative members of the PP who did not agree with their party’s leftward drift under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and it now appears as a necessary coalition partner for the PP in most regions where the right is in a position to govern.

With over 1.6 million votes on May 28, Vox achieved twice as many votes as in the municipal elections of 2019. It increased its number of seats in the parliaments of Valencia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, Murcia and Cantabria, and it is entering for the first time the parliaments of the regions of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarre and the Canary Islands. Santiago Abascal’s party has also increased its number of local councilors throughout the country from 530 to 1,687. In Catalonia, where its members have traditionally suffered the most brutal politically motivated attacks by separatists and left-wing activists, its number of councilors throughout the region has now risen from only three to more than 120.

Vox’s only black spots in these elections are the Madrid region, where it will now have 10 seats instead of 13 and the PP has gained an absolute majority, as well as Ceuta, in North Africa, where it failed to meet its expectations of coming first and being able to form a government.

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Since the last parliamentary elections in the fall of 2019 in which it won 52 seats out of 349, Vox has been the third force in the Congress of Deputies behind the PSOE and the PP.

After Sunday’s election, even center-right newspaper El Mundo came to the conclusion that “a more favorable scenario is now opening up for Vox than for any other party. It will make its debut in numerous new parliaments and will become a key player in the formation of right-wing governments.”

Spain’s left is faltering

In the big cities, one of the notable losses for Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE is Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia and its last bastion in a region it governed without interruption from 1978 to 2019.

Another loser of last Sunday’s elections in Spain is the centrist-liberal Ciudadanos party, which is a close ally of Macron’s Renaissance party in the European Parliament, sharing its radically progressive and euro-enthusiastic views. Three and a half years after its crushing defeat in the last national elections, Sunday’s results come as a confirmation that Ciudadanos (Citizens) is no longer a significant player on the Spanish political scene and has ceased to be a potential ally for Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s PP.

Feijóo, who became the PP’s leader last year, has since then seemed undecided whether to continue his predecessor’s strategy of demonizing Vox and espousing Ciudadanos’ and the PSOE’s liberal-progressive views. He must now know that this will not be possible if the PP is to govern in most regions and probably also at the national level after the July 23 elections.

Remix News asked Spanish journalist Alvaro Peñas whether he thinks there will soon be such a coalition governing Spain. Peñas notes that the PSOE has actually lost only some 430,000 votes compared to the previous regional and local elections, and it is the progression of both the PP (with almost 2 million more votes, putting it some 750,000 votes ahead of the PSOE) and Vox that is making a big difference.

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If the People’s Party does not get an absolute majority on July 23, Peñas says, it will then have to negotiate with Vox even if some of its leaders do not like the idea. And it is unlikely the PP will repeat at the national level the same good results as in the Madrid region, where the local PP leader, Isábel Ayuso, is much more charismatic than Feijóo.

However, although a PP-Vox coalition has been functioning in Castille y Leon for some time, in some regions, for example, Aragon or Extremadura, the local PP leaders have said they want to convince the left to abstain to allow them to form minority governments without having to negotiate with Vox.

“So there will be some resistance within the PP,” says Peñas, “but what these elections have shown is that if it wasn’t for Vox, the PP could not oust the Socialist Party from power, as many people who now vote for Vox are conservative voters who are angry at the PP, and it is the sum of those forces that makes it possible for the right to govern, making such a coalition a matter of necessity for the center-right.”

Santiago Abascal, on his part, said on Monday that he is in favor of forming coalition governments with the PP both locally and at the national level.

“It is our duty to build a great alternative, starting from the municipalities and regions, to the terrible legacy that the pact made by Sánchez (with the far left and the separatists) has left us,” Abascal said on Monday.

If it was not for Sánchez’s decision to dissolve his government on Monday, the next general elections would have taken place next December.

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