Spain heading for new elections

New elections will take place in Spain on April 28. The Spanish parliament rejected the draft budget put forward by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's minority government last week because the Catalonian regional parties opposed the plan. Commentators discuss how the Catalonian crisis has divided Spain and what this will mean for the elections.

Open/close all quotes (ES) /

Early election date works in Sánchez's favour

The short time until the elections on April 28 will help the Socialists, sociologist Jorge Lago predicts in

“From now until April isn't enough time for the [conservative] PP to return to the centre after its shift to the far right. ... Nor will Ciudadanos have the time to decouple and recover from the joint photo with [far-right party] Vox at the demonstration in Colón. Everything left of this photo is Sánchez's domain. ... As long as the trial against the separatists continues, the Catalonia conflict will subside because there seems to be a space for its resolution. For Sánchez it would almost be better if the election campaign ended before the sentence is handed down because once there is a sentence it will have to be processed politically. But as long as there is no sentence it can all be left symbolically in the hands of the judges.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Catalonian separatists to blame for division

The tensions between the separatists and centralists has caused massive polarisation in Spain, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung laments:

“The activities of the separatists in Catalonia have aroused nationalist instincts in Spanish society on both the left and right and have also strengthened those forces that have a centralist concept of the state. ... The Catalonian issue will dominate the election campaign, particularly with the trial against the separatist leaders taking place concurrently in Madrid. The procedures in the courtroom and on the political stage will influence and intensify each other. As things stand now the right-wing parties can count on a major increase in support because they promise a tough policy against the 'putschists' in Catalonia.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Reactionary ideologies gaining ground

Naftemporiki is worried by the rise of the far right in Spain:

“Vox leader Santiago Abascal backs the call for the abolishment of Spain's decentralised governing system, which gives regions like Catalonia and the Basque Country significant political and administrative autonomy. ... But nationalism goes hand in hand with other reactionary ideologies. Vox is also demanding the abolishment of 'radical feminist institutions', the repeal of laws on violence against women and legislation on how to face up to the country's fascist past.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

No prospect of anti-Europe campaigning

A shift to the right in Spain would produce a situation similar to that in Italy, Handelsblatt believes:

“The major parties in Madrid all clearly back Europe, and EU institutions have a better reputation than the country's own institutions among the Spanish people. So attacking Europe is not the way to achieve political victories in Spain. Nor is it by any means clear that there is a right-wing majority there. The only thing that is clear is that forming a government will be difficult in view of the increasingly fragmented party landscape.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Separatists focused entirely on their own goals

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez never got around to actually governing the country, De Volkskrant comments:

“With his budget Sánchez was trying to encourage leftist sentiments that Spain had lost touch with over the last seven years. ... But only the left-activist Podemos and the Basque nationalist PNV remained loyal to him, while the two Catalan nationalist parties PDECat and ERC mercilessly turned their backs on the Socialist prime minister. They can't bear the fact that, if the prosecution is to be believed, their leaders pose such a threat to the state that they should spend years in jail, while they themselves are supposedly good enough to secure a majority for the budget. ... The Catalonian parties in parliament want just one thing: a referendum on self-determination.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Ideology trumping pragmatism

There is no truly rational explanation for the failure of the budget, Deutschlandfunk comments:

“More money against child poverty. A higher minimum wage and bigger pensions - all with the approval of the EU. And with millions in increased transfers and investments Catalonia would receive an extra pat on the head. So this is an offer that the representatives of the Catalan people can hardly refuse. Yet the Catalan parties in parliament did so. Because their thinking is shaped more by ideology than by pragmatism. More than almost any other political conflict, the one in Catalonia thrives on escalation and a confrontation driven by the extremes. ... But it leaves all those who refuse to be driven by emotions - and who want pragmatic solutions for everyday problems - in the lurch.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Catalan parties wasting a unique opportunity

The breaking off of negotiations between the Socialist government and the Catalan separatist parties ERC and PDECat will cost Sánchez his post, but the separatists are hurting their own cause with their stance, El Periódico de Catalunya argues:

“They will never again have such a favourable opportunity to find a political way out of the Catalan situation. If the right-wing trio [consisting of PP, Ciudadanos and Vox] came to power, a permanent application of Article 155 [suspending regional autonomy] could result, as well as harsh treatment of the politicians on trial and the rejection of any type of release from punishment. And even if the Socialists were to win the elections and form a coalition with Ciudadanos, Ciudadanos would block any negotiations with its veto.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Spain facing phase of ungovernability

Forming a new Spanish government will be a difficult process, the Financial Times fears:

“A general election this spring would be the fourth in eight years. The outcome is also likely to confirm that Spain has become a five-party political system, not counting Catalan and Basque nationalists and other regional representatives. … As shown elsewhere in Europe, such as Sweden and Germany, the presence of far-left or far-right parties in parliament makes forming viable coalition governments of centre-left or centre-right so much harder. The PP and Ciudadanos have formed a government in Andalucía with tacit far-right support. But doing so at a national level would prove much more contentious.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Sánchez could emerge stronger from new elections

In the event of snap elections Pedro Sánchez has good chances of being re-elected, Diário de Notícias believes:

“In Spain all winds seem to be blowing in Sanchez's favour - even the oppositional voices of the Catalan independence parties. Those who had accused of bringing down Rajoy's government with concessions to the nationalist parties must now ask themselves whether that was truly the case: because after all the Catalan independence parties voted against the government's budget plan. Then there's the fact that the conservative PP is losing more and more voters to the right-wing populist Vox: Sánchez can use the rise of the far right to scare left-wing voters. ... And the Spanish protest party Podemos is having problems with internal squabbling.”