On 28 April Spain is due to hold another general election, triggered by the current government’s failure to steer its budget through the Spanish Cortes. But the country’s electoral landscape is becoming increasingly difficult to read as new groups challenge the two parties that have dominated Spanish politics for decades, the PSOE on the left and the Partido Popular on the right.
Back in December, Javier Martín-Arroyo of El País was interviewing politicians, commentators and academics in an effort to understand the shock results of elections for the autonomous government of Andalusia, which saw the socialist PSOE lose its control of the region for the first time in 36 years, and new far-right party Vox burst onto the stage under its leader Santiago Abascal (¿Por qué ganó la derecha en Andalucía?), an outcome missed by all the political polls before the vote. Political scientist Jean Baptiste Harguindeguy warned against trying to reduce what happened to a single cause, talking instead about the interaction between a range of factors; voter alienation after a long period of single-party rule, historically low turnout, especially among voters on the left, and a PSOE-left block campaign which never really got off the ground, against an energetic and aggressive Vox, which was able to exploit social media platforms to tap into fears about immigration, globalism and austerity. Local PSOE activist Juan Chacón pointed to infighting that fatally undermined party morale in the run-up to the vote and was scathing about Vox’s manipulation of anti-Gibraltar sentiment to win votes.
Javier Martín-Arroyo said he was basing his article on expert interviews and anecdotal evidence in anticipation of statistical research then in the pipeline. In February this year, the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas published its study of the elections, covered by El País in Siete claves de Vox, según el CIS. Based on individual voter analysis, the study paints a picture of Vox supporters who are mostly (but by no means entirely) male, relatively well-off and solidly conservative; 50% previously voted for the Partido Popular, and 21% for its centre-right rival Cuidadanos, while 10% said they had abstained in the 2016 general elections and a mere 9% were previously left-wing party supporters.
In Rivera apuesta todo a vencer a Casado tras el no al PSOE, Elsa García de Blas describes how Ciudadanos, under the leadership of Albert Rivera, is manoeuvering to wrest domination of the centre right in Spain from the Partido Popular, now led by Pablo Casado; in February Rivera publicly ruled out any form of coalition with the PSOE, with approaches to the Catalan crisis a key issue. The article stresses, however, that the party’s stance against Catalan independence goes beyond political tactics and carries huge emotional significance for Rivera.
And last week, Patricia Gosálves went to take the mood in the heartlands of the Partido Popular, meeting up with a group of ladies who lunch, and their parish priest, in one of the wealthiest (and more elderly) quarters of Madrid (Fabada con seis señoras bien: “Tenemos el WhatsApp enloquecido con Vox”). Over Asturian bean stew and a few bottles of wine, she talked to her interviewees about the state of the nation (terrible), taxes (way too high), breakaway movements (they hung out the flags), the Pope (a bit of a populist) and many other subjects, including euthanasia, where opinion was divided. On the elections, although Vox was making a lot of waves among their friends and their faith had been shaken by corruption scandals, they said they would stick with the PP. Or maybe not – one of the findings of the CIS study was reluctance to admit voting for Vox.