The Spanish General Election: The election of a generation

Daniel Gonzalez - Regular Columnist

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Barcelona | Image: Jordi Boixareu

The Debate between the two major candidates of PSOE (centre-left: Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and PP (centre-right: People’s Party), Pedro Sanchez and Mariano Rajoy, certainly contributed to increase the sentiment of the general public that their politicians only care about themselves. The two established parties, the Spanish equivalent of Labour and the Conservatives, are becoming increasingly unpopular and likely to lose much support to the new parties Podemos (left-wing anti-austerity party) and Citizens (centrist progressive party) who have huge swathes of support from the young and diaffected, whom are unhappy with the two-party system Spain has had for decades. Although the PP will likely keep a considerable majority of 122 seats in the parliament according to all the polls, the PSOE is shrinking in support on an unprecedented scale. In fact, the PSOE would only keep an historic low of 75 seats in the parliament, a debacle of tremendous proportions. The reasons for that are simple: Rajoy´s leadership has not been able to convince, and regenerate the party from within, he was the creation of Susana Diaz, currently the most powerful king maker in the party. His pro-austerity message just hasn’t convinced the Spanish people that he supports them, and after several scandals involving his own PP and the PSOE, neither appear to be listening to the people. This has meant Rajoy will no longer have a majority in parliament and a coalition will likely end up being formed, with a likely end, or at least a slow down of austerity in Spain.

Pedro Sanchez accused Rajoy of being incompetent, and indecent, something to what Rajoy answered that if he had had courage, he would have presented a censure motion against him, in order to propose an alternative government. Sanchez did not present any kind of proposal of regeneration at all, both of the candidates started a struggle of who had the upper hand in corruption. The cases that have created the biggest headaches for Rajoy are the Gurtell scandal, and the Barcenas Scandal. Sanchez and Rajoy’s campaigns have been ones of reminding the electorate again and again of the embarrassing scandals involving each other’s parties, one of negativity, criticising each other – meanwhile Podemos and Citizens move in to take their seats in parliament.

The Best card of Rajoy, was the economy, he insisted on the several improvements made, the reduction of unemployment, as well as the introduction of reforms which he argued saved Spain from having to be bailed out. He put a great deal of emphasis on the disastrous history of PSOE´s management of the economy – he struggled to present an optimistic message to the electorate. Sanchez of the PSOE however attempted to emulate Podemos’ aggressiveness and young image, but failed. He was tense at times and neither have ended up presenting an image of optimism or positivity. For this reason PSOE and the PP will lose a lot of seats in parliament tonight.

There are many problems that still affect Spain, among them, the workforce market, that still maintains very high taxes, the second highest of all the EU, just behind Denmark. Most of the contracts that are done for the youth are temporary with very low wages, such as 600 or 400 euros per month. In Spain, there are still troubles for young entrepreneurs, who want to set up a startup due to the endless bureaucratic process, as well as the high taxes, and the expensiveness of hiring someone on a legal basis. Madrid, is nowadays, the engine of Spain´s creation of wealth, collecting 50% of all the taxes of the country.

The two-party system is certainly under threat, and the 2015 debate reinforces that impression, however, it is not over yet. The PP is still retaining a pretty high number of voters, and PSOE can still regenerate itself if Sanchez starts a fast process of reforms inside his party. Podemos and Citizens are its most immediate threats. Podemos are predicted to score 48-50 seats in the Parliament, and Ciudadanos, 80 seats. Iglesias, leader of Podemos, attracts the radicals, nostalgic of the left-wing, and Rivera of the Citizens, many of the disaffected former voters of PP, as well as the pragmatics of the PSOE. The youth vote, before more attracted to Podemos, is now more inclined towards Albert Rivera and Citizens with their moderate, but progressive policy. He is the most popular party leader in Spain according to the polls scoring 5.8. One thing is clear, the two-party system is severely weakened, but not totally dead.

About Daniel Gonzalez 13 Articles

Daniel keeps right up to date on the inner workings of politics in the Spanish-speaking world and around the world. He is one of the first to know and through writing for the Orator, he ensures you are too.