Saturday 24 August 2019

Spain is left hanging as far right make gains

Coalition talks: Incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez
Coalition talks: Incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez

Elena Rodriguez

Spain's governing Socialists won the national election yesterday but will need the backing of smaller parties to stay in power.

Meanwhile, a far-right party rode a groundswell of support to enter the lower house of parliament for the first time in four decades, provisional results showed.

Voters in Spain had become disillusioned as the country struggled with a recession, austerity cuts, corruption scandals, the divisive Catalan independence demands and a rise in far-right Spanish nationalism.

As a result, after having only two main political parties for decades, Spain's political landscape has fragmented into five leading parties.

With more than 90pc of ballots counted, the Socialists led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won nearly 29pc of the vote, capturing 122 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. The new far-right Vox party made its national breakthrough by capturing about 10pc of the vote, which would give it 24 seats.

Vox's success apparently came at the expense of the once-dominant conservative Popular Party, which fell to 65 seats, losing half of its support since the last election in 2016. The conservatives also lost votes to the centre-right Citizens party, which will increase its seats from 32 to 57.

"We told you that we were going to begin a reconquering of Spain and that's what we have done," Vox leader Santiago Abascal said, in reference to the 15th-century campaign by the Spanish Catholic kings to end Muslim rule in the Iberian peninsula.  

Vox general secretary Javier Ortega Smith told supporters that "today is historic" and derided the success of the Socialists. "This is an ephemeral victory, since the left knows that with Vox, their party is over," he added.

To remain in office, Mr Sánchez will have to form a governing alliance with smaller parties, including the far-left United We Can. Since he still needs about 15 more seats, Mr Sánchez will have to decide whether he wants to make pacts with Catalan and other separatist parties - a move that would anger many Spaniards, especially nationalist Vox supporters.

Pablo Casado, who had steered the Popular Party further to the right to try to stop it from losing votes to Vox, called the ballot the country's "most decisive" in years. Polls only a week ago showed that about one-third of Spain's nearly 37 million voters were still undecided.

Turnout in Sunday's vote was around 75pc, up more than eight points since the previous election in 2016.

The arrival of Vox in Madrid's national parliament marks a big shift in Spain, where the far right has not played a significant role since General Franco.

Irish Independent

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