The uncertainties of going back to the polls

Fresh elections in Spain will mean rethinking faces, strategies and platforms

By now Spain’s political parties have inevitably begun spinning their election wheels, lest the current state of affairs reach a point of no return. The PP and the PSOE are using up their last chances for dialogue with their sights set on the polls, a scenario which presents a number uncertainties that must be resolved.

The candidates. Iglesias and Rivera will run again, but what about Rajoy and Sánchez?

Within Podemos and Ciudadanos (C’s) nobody questions that Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera should run again. However, some PP figures close to former Spanish president José Maria Aznar —such as Esperanza Aguirre— are suggesting that Mariano Rajoy should step down, following his poor election results, widespread corruption in the party and Rajoy’s refusal to try to muster a majority in parliament when King Felipe asked him to. Likewise, some within the PSOE believe that Pedro Sánchez —whose election results were the party’s worst ever—is hardly the best possible candidate for a rebound. Susana Díaz, the president of Andalusia, was particularly outspoken immediately after the elections in December last year. This time around the electoral calendar will be so tight that parties will struggle to pick their candidates through primary elections.

Platforms. The standing agreement between the PSOE and C’s and the battle for the narrative, key elements.

Everyone is taking for granted that in a fresh election campaign the messages from the political parties will not revolve around policies. Mutual accusations blaming one another for the failure to form a government will be constant. The PSOE will likely have an especially hard time because their campaign will be inevitably conditioned by their agreement with Ciudadanos, which includes 200 proposals with a party that —prior to the vote on December 20— the PSOE kept referring to as their opponent on the right. The PSOE’s Catalan chapter (the PSC) may end up paying the highest price for the party’s pact with Ciudadanos, considering how the PSC had always accused Rivera of being the PP’s alternative brand name.

Catalan separatists. The debate over a single slate to stop En Comú Podem.

Given that En Comú Podem (the Catalan chapter of Podemos) won the Spanish elections in Catalonia on December 20, the discussion as to whether separatist parties should run as a single slate is likely to resurface. Convergència (Artur Mas’ party) will certainly bring it up. In fact, its leader in the Spanish parliament, Francesc Homs, said yesterday that Spain’s failure to form a government presents an “opportunity” for the pro-independence forces. Still, ERC won’t even consider such a scenario. At least not for now. ERC’s spokesman in Madrid, Joan Tardà, stated that they “wouldn’t even spend five minutes” of their time “thinking about it”.

The alternative left. Once again, Podemos and Izquierda Unida will look into running together.

Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU) will also need to decide whether they should run as a single slate. Podemos does not hold a homogenous view on the matter. While Pablo Iglesias and his followers believe that Podemos would fare better if they joined forces with IU, Íñigo Errejón and his supporters are quick to point out that a coalition with IU might mean losing votes from the political centre. IU leader Alberto Garzón still claims that running with Podemos is the way to go if they wish to succeed, but not everyone sees eye to eye with him in the party. Former leader Gaspar Llamazares was skeptical about the idea when he was asked last Sunday.

Podemos’ regional allies. A new formula to secure their own parliamentary groups.

The new electoral scenario will also force Podemos to ratify or rethink the coalition formula with which they ran in Catalonia (En Comú Podem), Galicia (En Marea) and Valencia (Compromís). Podemos’ regional partners all aimed to gain a parliamentary group of their own, but when their plans were thwarted by the rules of the Spanish chamber, most of their MPs joined the Podemos group, except four Compromís representatives from Valencia who remain unaffiliated and have left Podemos with only 65 seats in parliament. En Comú Podem is already looking at ways to prevent this from reoccurring. A possible solution would be for Podem (Podemos’ flavour in Catalonia) to set up as a separate Catalan party —like the PSC versus the PSOE— or perhaps to register an “instrumental political party” only for these elections.

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