Current Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, of the socialist party, announced today that he will hold general elections in Spain on the 28th April 2019.
The decision comes after his government – which rules with a minority of only 84 MPs out of a total of 350, after the previous majority government was ousted in a corruption scandal last year – lost a vote on its budget proposition this week. Much like Theresa May, the PSOE doesn’t have the necessary numbers behind it to get legislation passed in parliament. Unlike Theresa May, they’re admitting their inability to rule and doing something about it by holding elections.
However, the prospect of new elections brings with it a whole new set of worries in Spain.
In December, Andalusian local elections inspired fear and shock in political spectators both in Spain and internationally as the far right group Vox won 11% of the votes, winning them 12 regional MPs. This is not just another creeping example of the rise of extremism, however. The fact that it is happening in Spain marks a huge milestone for European extremism – because it is the first time Spain has succumbed to this kind of far-right, nationalist-centric political party since the end of the 40-year right-wing dictatorship under Franco.
Early polls have suggested that a majority could be formed by the PP (Partido Popular, right-wing party whose President was ousted by the corruption scandal), Ciudadanos (centre-right liberal party) and Vox. Of course, the PSOE will also be hoping to remain in power, this time with a greater majority.
The elections are also a source of concern for Catalans. As the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox are all anti-independence for Catalonia and have thus far refused to engaged in dialogue – even participating in a public protest against Catalan independence last week – a new government could signify the end of already stilted and tense discussions which Sánchez has been more open to. Even more worryingly, Vox believes in scrapping autonomous governance like that in Catalonia and isn’t favourable to the equal status given to the Catalan language in the region (children learn both Catalan and Castilian Spanish in state schools, with many core subjects taught in Catalan). In the worst case scenario, the election of such a far-right party could lead to further suppression for the region, where Franco made it illegal to speak Catalan in the street and attempted to stamp out the language. Unsuccessfully. And any further oppression of Catalan culture could lead to a strengthened campaign for independence…
Other factors, like the rise of extremism across the world, and the upcoming European elections, are also at play.
Many eyes will be on Spain in the coming months.
MINI POLITICS is a new series on my blog. Every week, I will be writing a short and simple explanation of a current political issue or event in Europe, designed to be accessible for people who don’t think they’re interested in politics as well as those who are interested in European politics but don’t want to trawl through pages of analysis, or who don’t speak the language of the country where the event is taking place. Mini summaries of big questions, made simple.