The Incessant Spanish Political Crisis

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Since the last parliamentary elections, Spain has been suffering from an institutional impasse as the leader of the winning party People’ Party (Partido Popular – PP), Mariano Rajoy, turned down king Felipe VI’s offer to form a new government. He explained his decision by stating that he does not have the absolute majority in the parliament but rather a majority of negative votes that would be against any of his proposed list of a government. As a result, the leader of the second placed party Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, was asked by the king to form a new government instead of Rajoy. However, as the PSOE party neither has the absolute majority, negotiations with other parties are necessary. Thus its leader asked for a period of a month before handing over his list of the ministers. In order to fully understand the actual political situation in Spain, we should focus on the results of the previous parliamentary elections.


Summary of the 2015 parliamentary elections’ results

Source: BBC (

Source: BBC

On the 20th of December of 2015, the results of the parliamentary elections have revealed the end of the two-party system that was well-established as the seats have been shared between four parties. The party with the most votes casted was the right-wing and conservative People’s Party with Mariano Rajoy as their leader (who was the previous head of the government). They earned 28.7% votes and 123 seats won in the Congress of Deputies. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party was the second party to have the most votes casted : 22% with 90 seats earned. The third party that received 20.7% and 69 seats was the left-wing party created in 2014 Podemos (translated from Spanish as „We can”), with Pablo Iglesias Turrión as their leader. The 2015 parliamentary elections were their very first election. The fourth party that earned a decent number of votes is the centre-right party C’s which stands for Ciudadanos (translated into English as „Citizens”). They won 40 seats with 13.9% of the votes. The parties that arrive in fifth and sixth places are Catalan nationalist parties : Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) and Democracy and Freedom (Democràcia i Libertat – DiL). They have earned less than 3% out of all of the votes. This considerable split of the votes has a consequence : no party has the absolute majority, that is to say none of them have received at least 176 seats (half of 350 seats plus one seat).


The necessity to find an agreement through negotiations

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though the PP has won the highest number of votes and thus the possibility to form a government, no other party wishes to form a coalition with it since it is said to be utterly corrupted. This led to Rajoy’s refusal to form a government. As a result, we could say that the fate of the political issues is now in Sánchez’s hands. However, it is not the case because even if he forms a coalition with one of the young parties Podemos or C’s, they would still not have the absolute majority. Sánchez could count on a coalition with the socialist electoral alliance Popular Unity (Unidad Popular), but they have only won two seats in the Congress of the Deputies – hence the necessity to have a coalition PSOE-Podemos-C’s. However, the problem is that these parties have different opinions concerning the Catalan independence. Basically, Podemos is in favour of organizing a referendum concerning the independence in this region, unlike C’s. Yet Sánchez does not seem to want to surrender as he may intend to have a consent regarding the fight against unemployment, social inequality and corruption, and he might propose a constitutional reform to move towards a federal state in order to regulate the Catalan issue. On the other hand, if Sánchez plans to leave C’s out of its negotiations and rather have a left-wing coalition PSOE-Podemos-Popular Unity, which would be more plausible and feasible, they would still not have the absolute majority. In the end, they would need the votes of the Catalan nationalist parties to be added to their votes, which would request the independence of Catalonia. But these are only suppositions – at this time of the year, we cannot make clear statements.

The transition from a two-party system to a multi-party system illustrates the lack of trust of the Spanish people towards the long-standing parties as they cast their vote for recently created parties. This switching means that the people have no longer put their faith in the „incompetent” politicians of the well-established parties but rather in young political parties, with leaders showing their will and vigour to change the country, yet without the experience of the political field. This political crisis is the inevitable consequence of the economic crisis that has affected Spain since 2008.





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