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Spain to hold snap general election in July

Published May 29, 2023last updated May 29, 2023

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced he would dissolve Parliament, and said the country would hold early elections on July 23.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
The political setbacks facing Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez come as Spain is set to assume the EU's rotating presidency on July 1Image: Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/IMAGO

Spain is set to hold an early general election on July 23, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Monday.

The move comes after Sanchez's Socialist Party suffered setbacks in regional elections on Sunday. 

The difficulties facing Sanchez's government also come as Spain is set to assume the European Union's rotating presidency on July 1.

What did Sanchez say?

Sanchez made the announcement in a televised address to the nation.

"I took the decision when looking at the results of the elections of yesterday," the prime minister said.

In the regional elections on Sunday Sanchez's Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and its junior coalition ally Podemos (United We Can) suffered setbacks, while the conservative People's Party (PP) and the far-right Vox parties secured major wins.

"Although yesterday's elections had a local and regional scope, the meaning of the vote conveys a message that goes beyond that. That is why, as both prime minister and PSOE's secretary-general, I personally assume the results."

Sanchez said he spoke with Spain's King Felipe VI about the decision, and that Parliament would be dissolved later on Monday.

Popular Party supporters wave Spanish flags at a rally following regional elections
The conservative, opposition PP saw a major boost in regional elections on SundayImage: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP

What happened in the regional elections?

The election results in the 12 Spanish regions that went to the polls on Sunday showed a major swing to the right.

 The conservative opposition PP won two regions outright in Sunday's polls. In six other regions, PP could likely partner with Vox to form a majority.

Overall, the PP won 31.5% of the votes compared to 28.2% for the Socialists. Compared to the last elections in 2019, support for the Socialists dropped 1.2%, but the PP's result skyrocketed by almost 9%.

Prior to the regional election setback, Sanchez said he planned on fully completing his four-year term, with the country originally set for a general election in December.

Why is the move coming now?

While announcing the snap vote came as a surprise, political analysts believe Sanchez hopes to cut short gains by conservatives.

"This is unexpected," Ignacio Jurado, a political scientist at Madrid's Carlos III University told the Associated Press.

"Sanchez is trying to short circuit the PP's rise as soon as possible," he added.

Sanchez's leftist government has also faced protests organized by conservatives and the far-right in January.

Lacking a parliamentary majority, Sanchez has been forced to negotiate with Catalan and Basque separatists to pass bills.

The right was angered by the government's decision to abolish the crime of sedition, of which nine separatist leaders were convicted over their role in the Catalonia region's failed independence bid in 2017.

In June 2021, Sanchez's government pardoned the nine "in the spirit of dialogue."

rs/kb (Reuters, AFP, AP)