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Socialists lose ground in Andalusia, extreme right party takes 12 seats

Vox becomes the first such group to win a major success since Spain returned to democracy, and holds the key to forming a government with Ciudadanos, Popular Party

Socialist Party chief in Andalusia Susana Díaz, after making a statement last night in Seville.
Socialist Party chief in Andalusia Susana Díaz, after making a statement last night in Seville. EFE

The southern Spanish region of Andalusia, which has been dominated by the Socialist Party (PSOE) for the last 36 years, saw a historic shift in its political map on Sunday at regional elections. The country’s most-populated region took a step toward the right with never-before-seen support for the extreme party Vox.

While the PSOE technically won the election, their loss of 14 seats compared to the 2015 polls means a bitter victory for the party’s regional chief, Susana Díaz, who is almost certain to be unable to return to power. Her 33 seats, combined with the 17 of Adelanta Andalucía (an alliance of left-wing parties Podemos and United Left (IU)), or the 21 seats of center-right group Ciudadanos, are all far from the absolute majority of 55 seats.

The candidates for the conservative Popular Party (PP), Juan Manuel Moreno (second with 26 seats), and Ciudadanos, Juan Marín, are already talking about forming a government. Neither is ruling out seeking the support of the 12 seats won by Vox.

Political reaction to the upset victory continued on Monday morning. Writing via Twitter on his way to Poland, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: “My government will continue to push for a regenerating and pro-European project for Spain. The results in Andalusia bolster our commitment to defend the Constitution and Democracy in the face of fear.”

“The right and the extreme right must know that we will keep fighting,” said Adelante Andalucía’s Maíllo on the morning show Los desayunos de TVE.

Change has arrived in Andalusia

Juan Marín, Ciudadanos

“There has been an extremist reaction to nationalism. [PP leader] Pablo Casado and [Ciudadanos leader] Albert Rivera have been very irresponsible. Neither France nor Germany have normalized their far right. We call on all parties’ sense of responsibility,” said Mario Jiménez, the PSOE spokesman in parliament, on another popular TV show, El programa de Ana Rosa.

Susana Díaz called early elections for Andalusia – they were scheduled for March – to guarantee stability, trusting in polls that augured an easy win for her. As such, Sunday’s surprise result is a political earthquake for the region. The low turnout rate (58.65%, almost four points down from 2015), the success of Vox, and the rise of Ciudadanos have all brought an end to the hegemony of the Socialists and the left in the region. A new era is opening up in Andalusia, with the novelty of the significant presence of a far-right party in government for the first time in Spain since the return of democracy in the 1970s.

In what was probably the saddest night of her political career, last night Díaz recognized the waning support for the left and for her party, but called on the opposition parties to not pact with the far right. “I’m calling on the pro-Constitution parties: let’s show that we are such by stopping the far right in Andalusia. I, at least, am going to try it,” she said.

But the plans of the PP and Ciudadanos appear to be headed in the other direction, and their respective candidates were already positioning themselves last night to govern the Junta, as the regional government is known. The PP took their second-worst result in their history in terms of percentage of vote, and have fallen in four years from 33 to 26 seats.

Juan Marín, the Ciudadanos candidate, who went from nine to 21 seats, let slip last night that he would seek to join forces with the PP and the far right. “Change has arrived in Andalusia,” he said. “There are enough deputies to force a change.” These words were echoed later by the party’s national leader, Albert Rivera: “We are going to throw the PSOE out of the Junta.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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