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Far-right gains in Spain are not Franco nostalgia: analyst

April 29, 2019

Spain will have another a left-wing minority government following its elections, analyst Salvador Llaudes tells DW. But it will not be unstable, he feels. And he downplayed the far-right successes at the poll.

Pedro Sanchez and his wife, Maria Begona Gomez
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Armangue

DW: After the Spanish parliamentary elections on Sunday, neither the left camp nor the right has a clear majority. How will Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), form a government?

Salvador Llaudes: He will first try it go it alone. If that does not work, he will seek a coalition with the far-left party Unidas Podemos. It is true that the number of seats held by both is not enough for an absolute majority. However, in the vote for prime minister, it could be enough if other parties, such as the regional Basque party and perhaps even some Catalan separatists, abstain.

This experiment failed earlier in the year. Why repeat it?

The election campaign has shown that all left-leaning parties, or at least a majority, want to prevent a right-wing government. They definitely want Sanchez to remain prime minister. While they may not actively support the government, abstaining from the vote for the premier should not be so hard.  None of this is going to happen in the next weeks. In a month's time, we have the European and regional elections. Perhaps then, before the summer break, the prime minister could be appointed.

Salvador Llaudes
Llaudes says many voters wanted to punish the conservative People's PartyImage: DW/B. Riegert

At his victory ceremony, Sanchez invited all parties who respected the constitution to begin coalition negotiations. Will he approach the center-right Citizens party? With them, he would have an absolute majority in parliament.

He will try to present himself as being open, perhaps to gain support, or at least to be tolerated. However, all parties on the right have made it very clear that they do not consider Sanchez an option for prime minister. Even the Citizens, who are rather centrist, have declared that they will not support him and want to join the opposition. So this would be very difficult, if not impossible.

The far-right Vox party has entered parliament for the first time. What does this mean for the political landscape in Spain? Will the party have any influence?

Vox got 10%, which, starting from nothing, is a great success, of course. But it was not worse than anticipated. In comparison with other European countries, 10% going to the far right is not an enormous amount. On the contrary, you could say it is "only" 10%. That gives them 24 out of 350 seats. They will make a lot of noise but their actual influence will be small.

Do you think that Vox could grow in the near future,  considering that the issues they scored well on with voters  — the Catalonia crisis, the unity of the Spanish nation, migration — will remain unresolved?

Vox certainly has prospects of being here to stay. They will remain a presence in parliament for some time. At the same time, I do not believe there is room for three parties (People's Party, Citizens, Vox) on the right of the spectrum in the long term. The Spanish political system generally manages two parties on the right and two on the left. These two camps will fight for voters in the future.

The 10% who voted for Vox — are they people who say that everything was better under the Franco dictatorship and who want a return to the "good old days"?

Not at all. Spain has not had a right-wing extremist party in parliament since Franco's death in 1975 and the return to democracy. If we consider all the crises of recent years, especially the Catalonia issue, we can understand what drove voters to look for alternatives. But they do not hold extreme views. Previously, they all voted for the conservative People's Party (PP) but this time they wanted to punish it. Whether this trend actually continues, we will see. There are some people who are nostalgic about Franco but by no means 10%.

Spanien Sevilla Wahlkampfauftritt von Santiago Abascal
The far-right Vox under its leader Santiago Abascal has entered parliament for the first timeImage: Getty Images/AFP/C. Quicler

The People's Party (PP) strategy for keeping the right-wing populists in check was to simply imitate them, to copy them. But that didn't work; they lost half their seats. What can be done now?

Things are going to be very, very difficult for the PP — the losses were great. Some corruption scandals and the crisis over Catalan independence were poorly managed by the PP when it was still the government. It has now been punished for that. It will be extremely difficult to win back voter confidence. But I wouldn't say that the PP is dead. In 2015, we saw the socialists face similar issues. Some analysts claimed that the party was finished. Now the socialists are still in power. It is not impossible that the PP will rise again.

So there will again be a minority government that won't be particularly stable. What does that mean for Spain's economic development?

I think the government will be relatively stable. Together, the two left-wing parties have 165 seats in parliament. That is much more than in the past 10 months. The government will be able to have decisions on economic issues passed with the help of the regional parties. From the moment that Pedro Sanchez is prime minister again, it is not an unstable government in my view.

What impact do you expect this election to have on the European elections next month?

Some say now that the European elections will be a sort of second round of our parliamentary elections. At the end of May, we also have regional elections. This will, of course, have repercussions. It will be particularly difficult for the PP to maintain their previously high level of voter support in the European elections. The socialists have a good chance of seeing a repeat of their good results in both the European and regional elections.

Salvador Llaudes is a political analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute. The Madrid-based think tank focuses on Spain's role in Europe and the world.

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Bernd Riegert Senior European correspondent in Brussels with a focus on people and politics in the European Union
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