The same deadlock, but now with the far right

PM Sánchez’s bid has failed: support for the PP and Catalan independence has grown and Vox has taken Ciudadanos’ spot

Spain’s general election on November 10 has left things even worse for the country’s governability, with support for independence rising in Catalonia. Looking at the results, the snap ballot has brought us a new, complicated political deadlock. Sánchez’s gamble has proven too risky and reckless. Luck has turned its back on the socialist leader: this time he has failed. The PSOE’s chances of governing are even more remote. With Podemos losing a number of seats, a left-leaning majority would be insufficient without the backing of the Basque nationalist MPs and Catalonia’s secessionist parties, which the PSOE targeted during the election campaign with a view to competing with the right, which has emerged stronger from the polls. On the other hand, if Sánchez sought to cosy up to the right, the PP and Ciudadanos’ abstention in parliament —which he had tirelessly asked for— would now fall short of the mark to get him re-elected. What’s more, Vox’s rising star on the far right would make it even harder for PP leader Pablo Casado to facilitate a PSOE government with his party’s abstention. The great coalition demanded by big business and Europe’s powers-that-be is looking very unlikely. Given the current state of affairs, it would be wrong to rule out another snap election in the future.

In ideological terms, Spain’s right and left blocs are hovering around the same percentage, with the right rising slightly. However, there is a very significative and worrying difference: Vox, the far-right party, has made a massive leap forward and taken over from Ciudadanos, whose crushing defeat has far exceeded what the opinion polls had anticipated. Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera has squandered all his political capital. In the short span of just a few months, the political leader who earned his battle stripes fighting the Catalanist parties has gone from VP-hopeful with the PSOE to being irrelevant. Ciudadanos have been left with fewer seats than ERC and they have been replaced by Vox, an anti-immigration, ultra-conservative, socially and ideologically toxic party that longs for the old days of the Franco regime.

The far right has become the third largest party in the Spanish parliament. It is terrible news, for Catalonia, too: Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, has made it one of his top goals to wipe out Catalonia’s home rule. Dialogue, compromise and negotiation have just become more difficult in Spain’s parliament. If the previous distribution of forces already made that impossible, the new scenario is looking even gloomier. These elections, which Sánchez hoped would afford him greater leeway, have actually backfired on him. The inability and unwillingness to respond to the Catalan issue —plus the impact of the verdict in the case of the independence leaders— have poisoned the result. Spain’s stance on Catalan secessionism has taken a radical turn, whereas support for independence has grown in Catalonia: ERC lost two seats but is still the winner, JxCat gained one seat and the CUP (which ran for the first time) was rewarded with two representatives. Overall, independence support got one more seat and rose by three points. In contrast, hard-line unionism (PP, Ciudadanos and Vox) dropped to the same tune (down three point, losing one seat). The PSC and the Comuns, while losing some support, largely held their ground.

Once again, Spain is stuck in a deadlock, but now under the shadow of the far right.

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