Spain: what comes after the right's election victory?

In Spain, the conservative Popular Party (PP) won local and regional elections on 28 May with 31.5 percent of the vote, leaving Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialists in second place with 28.2 percent followed by the far-right Vox party in third position. Faced with the heavy losses of the left-wing parties, Sánchez has brought forward the general election from December to 23 July. The press sees major upheavals in Spain's and Europe's party landscape.

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Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Return to a two-party system

Diário de Notícias expects that the traditional parties will emerge strengthened from the parliamentary elections:

“The Spanish head of government has taken on the task of stopping the advance of the conservatives not only in Spain but also in Europe. ... On the one hand he will try to mobilise the Socialists who stayed at home on Sunday, on the other he will try to win votes from those left of his party by stressing the importance of every single vote [for the Socialists].... After an almost revolutionary decade in the Spanish party system, with big electoral losses for the PSOE and the PP and phenomena like Podemos, Ciudadanos and Vox, the next elections could represent a kind of return to the traditional PSOE-PP duel.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Right on the rise across Europe

It is not only in Spain that authoritarian nationalist movements are becoming fixed components of the political landscape, The Guardian notes:

“Spain's summer election has important ramifications for Europe as a whole. An overwhelming majority of Spaniards have no desire to see Vox anywhere near power. But recent elections in Italy, Sweden and Finland indicate that authoritarian nationalists, intent on whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment, waging culture wars and rolling back rights for women and minorities, are becoming a feature, not a glitch, in Western European polities.”

El País (ES) /

Europe is watching closely

El País calls on the major parties to sharpen their profiles:

“Pedro Sánchez needs the debate to revolve around advances in the areas of social and labour policy which in conjunction with Spain's new international influence form the backbone of his government. ... The PSOE needs to recover its image as a majority party that can convince people in all sectors of society. ... The PP has a different problem: it is trying to avoid adopting an ideological position vis-à-vis the far right. ... Whatever it decides, Europe is watching closely. The battle raging in the parliament in Brussels between the leader of the European People's Party, Manfred Weber, and the Christian Democrat and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen demonstrates this: Weber wants to normalise relations with the far right while von der Leyen rejects any concessions.” (GR) /

Ayuso on the up and up predicts a bright future for the conservative PP and especially for Madrid politician Ayuso:

“Note that Isabel Díaz Ayuso's campaign is led by Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who kept the bland, limp José María Aznar in power for two terms. ... So if Sánchez's ploy (of calling a snap election for 23 July in a last-ditch attempt to get the Spanish left on his side) fails, there is nothing to stop the beautiful Isabel Díaz Ayuso from becoming the first female prime minister of the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula at some point.”

Telos (FR) /

Sánchez securing his position

The country is reverting to its traditional structures, historian and Spain expert Benoît Pellistrandi explains in Telos:

“Sánchez has declared the coalition government with Podemos to be over in the hope of regaining a much-needed political virginity for the duration of the election campaign. In so doing, he is leaving the far left to its own devices. The PSOE can now completely dominate the left spectrum. And even if he were to lose the election, he would have saved the PSOE as a party and therefore put it in an ideal position for the next change of government. Moreover, nothing is more surprising than the gradual restoration of the two-party system in Spain. In 2015 it was declared dead. But it has now once again become the main principle behind the system.”

Público (ES) /

Surprising, disrespectful and incomprehensible

Público doesn't understand what Sánchez is up to:

“The decision is surprising because it seems logical that he would have discussed the strategy with his cabinet. ... It also seems disrespectful to make the election of city councils, parliaments and regional governments coincide with the snap election. And this has unforeseeable consequences for the country's European presidency [from July 2023]. It's hard to imagine how this will work with only a temporary government in office. ... Moreover, calling elections just when the opponent is stronger and more powerful seems politically incomprehensible. As is the fact that he is foregoing this six-month period in which he could really bring to bear what he has achieved.”

El País (ES) /

Firing the last bullet

The left parties must get their act together quickly, El País stresses:

“This was a resounding disaster for the left. Podemos lost in Madrid and Valencia, and the left is suffering a general decline. ... In addition to neutralising the echo of the PP's euphoria the advance decided by Sánchez will shorten the bloody confrontations between the leftist parties: they have only 10 days to decide whether to run together. ... Any possibility of a new edition of the current governing coalition will be an exercise in responsibility, maturity and political pragmatism which the left has not wanted or been able to show so far. ... Sánchez has fired the last bullet to prevent the fall of the Socialists and the agony of the left.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Choice between the past or the future

Sánchez's decision to hold a snap election is a courageous move, praises Spain correspondent Reiner Wandler in the taz:

“Sánchez had only one chance and he is seizing it. He finally wants to talk about politics again instead of about ideological ghosts like the destruction of Spain by an armed organisation called Eta that has long since ceased to be active. ... Because that's what this is all about: a traditional, macho, pro-uniform, Catholic Spain with bullfighting which knows no sexual minorities and no regional languages - heterogenous and big, as Franco put it - or a modern, diverse, colourful, social, plurinational, pioneer with rights for all. Past or future - that's what Spain will have to decide on 23 July.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Not a natural fluctuation

La Repubblica asks:

“Is this a normal political development resulting from the natural fluctuations of public opinion in a democracy, or is it a new phenomenon that could have long-term structural consequences? ... The reassuring natural fluctuation version ignores an important political novelty resulting from the recent success of the European right. ... Because from Italy to Spain, from Sweden to Finland, the defeat of the left is accompanied not only by an upsurge of parties close to the EPP but also by the success, in some cases enormous, of the far right, which does not recognise itself within traditional Christian Democratic moderatism.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

The right is changing

The election results in Spain are confirmation of a clear trend in Europe, L'Opinion comments:

“The right is winning, and changing. Across Europe, the dividing line between the right and the far right seems to be gradually blurring. Often more social, the far right is becoming mainstream and shedding its anti-European rhetoric. And for its part, the classical right is adopting its rival's positions on migration. ... In Italy, an heiress to the neo-fascist movement is running the country without making waves. In Sweden and Finland, right-wing populist parties are members of the governing coalition. In Spain too, tomorrow? And if Denmark is withstanding the right-wing wave this is also due to the fact that the governing left there is pursuing an anti-immigration policy.”