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Change and stability

After turning the page on the two-party system, Spain now needs to be governed

Voters in Madrid on Sunday.
Voters in Madrid on Sunday. EFE

Despite enormous losses, the Popular Party (PP) managed to achieve a win at Sunday’s elections in terms of votes and seats in Congress. The Socialist Party (PSOE), meanwhile, managed to maintain its place as the second parliamentary force, albeit with the worst results it has ever seen at a general election. The scale of the loss by Spain’s two main parties served to strengthen the emerging political forces, Podemos and Ciudadanos (in particular the former), which will enter Spain’s Congress of Deputies with force, thus consolidating the change in Spain’s political landscape that had been augured by the polls.

An important element for decision-making will be the constitution of a new Catalan government”

The leaders of the four main parties have hardly given any clue about possible pacts that would ensure the governability of Spain. It’s understandable that, in the midst of the election campaign, they were unwilling to elaborate on this. But now the elections are over, Mariano Rajoy (PP), Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos) need to show their cards in order to try to form some kind of government.

An important element for decision-making will be the constitution of a new Catalan government, which is scheduled for the coming months, and is a factor that will, no doubt, and perhaps in a decisive manner, influence the negotiations that will follow for the future government of Spain.

Rajoy claimed victory on Sunday night for the PP and his expressed his will to form a government, a right that minutes beforehand had been recognized by Pedro Sánchez before the television cameras. The PP has, in effect, won, but it has lost a large amount of political capital.

Parliamentarians will have to learn to live with a scenario of minorities, and will have to employ their best efforts in order to ensure the stability of the system”

Podemos and its leader, Pablo Iglesias, achieved a good result with a discourse that sought to maintain the cohesion of its heterogeneous electorate – the product of heterogeneous coalitions – at the same time as it sought to avoid the mobilization of Socialist voters. And Ciudadanos fell well short of the results that were predicted for it by the opinion polls, although it will still enjoy a strong presence in Congress and it is, without a doubt, set to play important roles in the future.

The legislature will be focused on a minority parliament, in which no party will have the sufficient force to act alone, given the lack of an absolute majority. The new system established at the polls does not mean a revolution in itself, but it is a major change. From the outset it reflects the wishes of Spaniards, who have called for negotiation and consensus, and are in a large part sick of the conflict with no solution that the highly polarized situations of the past engendered.

After four years in which political dialogue has been notable for its absence, the parties need to find the road to negotiation once more”

Parliamentarians will have to learn to live with a scenario of minorities, and will have to employ their best efforts in order to ensure the stability of the system. There is no doubt that there will be complex negotiations to form a government, but there is hope that the main constitutional protagonists will take on this role with a constructive attitude. Many of the hopes of the electorate will be frustrated if the process descends into unreasonable demands or blocking maneuvers that impede taking advantage of the change of system. Citizens want there to be consensus over the principal policies, and not for each party in power to block the solutions of the future.

After four years in which political dialogue has been notable for its absence, the parties need to find the road to negotiation once more in order to deal with the problems of our country. That is the best route to take.

English version by Simon Hunter.