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Ciudadanos the party to beat for conservatives and socialists, poll shows

New voter intention survey shows a three-horse race for the center of the political spectrum

Un colegio electoral de Pamplona en las elecciones generales de 2011
With general elections just 50 days away, the picture looks very different from the way it did in November 2011.

With 50 days to go before Spain holds a crucial general election, the campaign is increasingly looking like a three-horse race between the incumbent Popular Party (PP), the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and the emerging Ciudadanos (Cs), a new survey shows.

The latest survey by polling firm Metroscopia shows Ciudadanos ahead of the Socialists in voting intention, though not in parliamentary seats due to the Spanish voting system.

The results of the survey could force a change of strategy at the PSOE, which is now under siege from all sides

The poll shows that despite the Socialists’ drop to third spot in votes, it would still take 88 to 98 seats in Congress ahead of Ciudadanos, which would secure 72 to 84. The PP would win a new term with 93 to 100 seats.

Meanwhile, left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos is experiencing a notable rise in popularity again after sagging in the wake of the local and regional elections of May 24. Podemos reached its popularity peak early this year, when some surveys ranked it first or a close second.

While the ruling PP now leads the way in voting intention, Ciudadanos is now just one point away. The party led by Albert Rivera has managed to erode the voter base of both the PP and the PSOE with its message of non-partisan democratic regeneration, underscoring that the battle for the center of the political spectrum will determine the winner of the December elections.

Podemos, in the meantime, has managed to recover three percentage points in a month, at the expense of the Socialists. Critics of the leftist force say Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has toned down his message precisely in order to attract more center voters.

The results of the latest survey could force a change of strategy at the PSOE, which is now under siege from all sides.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez has already begun attacking Ciudadanos by casting it as “the new right, which is just like the old right.” The PP has defined Ciudadanos as a left-wing party that supports abortion and helped the Socialists remain in power in Andalusia.

Who are Ciudadanos?

El PAIS

Founded in 2005 as a Catalan non-nationalist party, Ciudadanos (Citizens) made the jump to national politics last year and secured a presence in most regions at the May elections. In Madrid and Andalusia, Ciudadanos’ support was instrumental in getting premiers invested.

With a mix of progressive liberalism and social democracy, and a message of democratic regeneration, Ciudadanos has allied itself with both the Popular Party and the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) at the regional level after forcing would-be premiers to sign a list of anti-corruption measures.

At the recent Catalan elections, Ciudadanos took 25 seats in the regional assembly, up from nine, becoming the second-largest presence in Catalan politics, after the pro-independence Junts pel Sí bloc headed by current regional premier Artur Mas.

Party leader Albert Rivera bills himself as Catalan, Spanish and European.

As for Podemos, both the PP and PSOE have defined it as an extreme left-wing party whose victory would be detrimental to the Spanish economy.

A historical date

December 20 is already being viewed as a historical date because, for the first time, more than two parties will have a serious chance at La Moncloa, the seat of government. The rise of emerging parties Ciudadanos and Podemos has defined a race that will likely lead to a coalition government between two or more forces.

It also marks the end of the two-party system that has dominated Spanish politics since the return to democracy in the late 1970s.

The vote will additionally be meaningful because whoever emerges victorious will have to contend with an expanding political problem in Catalonia, where the ruling separatists have embarked on a road towards independence that seems increasingly difficult to reverse.

English version by Susana Urra.