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Spain: Socialists Win General Election, Fall Short of Majority

In Spain’s third nationwide election since 2015 on Sunday,  Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s governing Socialist party (PSOE) won with 29 percent of the national vote. Still, the socialists fell short of the absolute majority necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-deputy Congress and will need to ally with other parties. In his victory speech, Sánchez announced that the party’s goals would include combating inequality and corruption, claiming that “the future has won and the past has lost.”

In a snap general election on Sunday, PM Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party gained 39 seats in Spain’s Congress of 350 deputies. Photo:  Pressenza

In a snap general election on Sunday, PM Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party gained 39 seats in Spain’s Congress of 350 deputies. Photo: Pressenza

Sánchez has increased the minimum wage, guaranteed more stringent laws against rape, and appointed a majority-women cabinet since taking office last year. The snap election was called in February by Sánchez after opposition lawmakers allied with pro-independence Catalan politicians to reject Sánchez’s national budget.

In June 2018, the Socialist Party took advantage of a corruption scandal to force out then-PM Mariano Rajoy and the conservative Popular Party (PP) in a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Since then, Sánchez’s attempts to maintain dialogue with Catalan separatists have failed, but his efforts to negotiate have prompted conservative lawmakers to label him as a traitor. Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera said in reference to Sánchez ahead of Sunday’s election: “I want a government without separatists.”

PM Pedro Sánchez celebrates a general election win for PSOE in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Sergio Perez/ Reuters

PM Pedro Sánchez celebrates a general election win for PSOE in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Sergio Perez/Reuters

While PSOE increased its seats from 84 to 123 in Congress and won an absolute majority in the Senate, the ultra-nationalist Vox party entered Congress for the first time with 24 seats and 10.26 percent of the vote. Vox will not have political power in the new Congress, but as the first far-right party to have a noteworthy parliamentary presence since Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, it has added Spain to the ever-growing list of European countries experiencing a far-right resurgence.

The gains by PSOE were largely thanks to the Popular Party’s crippling loss of 71 seats; it now holds only 66 seats. Prior to the election, PP leader Pablo Casado commented that the snap election would be the “most decisive” vote in Spain’s recent history. Despite being the country’s third general election in four years, voter turnout reached 75.8 percent, nearly 10 percentage points higher than in 2017.

PSOE, in alliance with the leftist coalition Unidas Podemos and the Basque National Party, is slightly short of the 176 seats necessary for an absolute majority. The Socialists will likely have to look to smaller parties on the right to form a government.