Together with a delegation from the “Kalimera Brigade”, we followed the Spanish general elections held on the 20th December, just as we did in the case of Syriza, in Greece.
In contrast with the great tension and agitation that we experienced in Athens, in Spain we witnessed a much more relaxed atmosphere, which was not dominated by this feeling of suspense that struck us on the morning of the historic vote in Greece. This vote then led to the first European anti-austerity government. However, in the wake of the Portuguese election results, the outcome of the Spanish general elections held on the 20th December was even more important, as it presented another opportunity to take a step further in destroying the wall of infamous decisions taken by the European oligarchies.
For us, the biggest difference came when we had to take turns to attend the closing events of the election campaigns of Unidad Popular and Podemos, respectively. On the one hand was the Left, led by Alberto Garzón, the young representative of Unidad Popular; on the other, the new force led by Pablo Iglesias. Even so, we did not feel out of place in either of the events. We could see our own history in both movements, their origins and proposal for change being based on the value of social achievements won through working class struggle, from defending the health system to fighting for the public education system. The difficult election campaign was dominated by the biggest political groups, for whom the media predicted the best results. Apart from the historic parties Partido Popular (PP) and Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), as well Podemos, the new political force, another new force was born which serves as the right-wing counterpart to the innovative left-wing politics of Podemos. This was Ciudadanos, a party led by young and photogenic leader Albert Rivera. At times, it was predicted that the party would win a share of the vote that was equal or even better than the result forecast for Podemos. They overshadowed other movements.
On the Sunday of the election, we followed the first projections at the Goya Theatre, the campaign headquarters of Podemos. The atmosphere was not dissimilar to that of a graduation party – a gathering of young people in a modern and multifunctional space. At 8 pm, the exit polls predicted a national vote share of 26.8 % for the PP, (hence crowning it the strongest party), followed by Podemos and the PSOE, as well as the new force Ciudadanos, which was predicted to gain 15.2 % of the votes, followed by Unidad Popular with 4.1 %.
However, the complex manner in which seats are distributed, whereby certain regions are favoured, as well as the autonomous regions and regional representation, has caused a shift in the final results and meant that the PSOE (with 20.5 % of the votes) won more seats than Podemos, which won 21.7% of the votes according to the polls. At the same time, this overall outcome demonstrated a break with the two-party system which had been in place since the first national elections following the Transition. If we count the seats assigned to the individual parties in the polls, a coalition government modelled after the one in Portugal seemed a possibility. This coalition would be able to reach and exceed the threshold of 176 seats needed to gain a majority, even if only by a little.
We then joined the people at the headquarters of Izquierda Unida on the opposite side of the city, where new projections broadcast on TV showed a reduction in the vote share predicted for both Podemos and Unidad Popular and a slight increase in that predicted for the PSOE. Alberto Garzón had announced his goal of being able to form an independent parliamentary group and therefore win the necessary 5 seats. In his first press conference, held at 11:30 when the results had already been finalised, Garzón admitted that he had not achieved this goal, even though some of the elected delegates in the Catalonian lists and other regions were from Izquierda Unida and that efforts had still been made to form a group.
The final results read as follows: the PP gained 28.7 % of the votes and 123 seats, the PSOE 22 % of the votes and 110 seats,Podemos 20.6 % of the votes and 69 seats, Ciudadanos 13.9 % of the votes and 40 seats and Unidad Popular 3.6 % of the votes and 2 seats. The remaining 26 seats were shared out among a number of regional parties.
After midnight, on the square in front of the Reina Sofía Museum, a stage was set up for the public appearance of Podemos officials. Thousands of – mainly young – people celebrated the party’s success and listened to a speech by Pablo Iglesias. Amongst other things, he reminded them of the international solidarity shown by those who fought to defend Spain and who will therefore forever after be considered Spanish. In some ways, this makes us feel like an active part of this history which we are writing with the Kalimera Brigade. Before a huge crowd chanting “Si se puede” (“Yes we can”), Pablo Iglesias said thatit represented a historic moment for a new political alliance with human rights at its core instead of the supremacy of finance.
The gains of Podemos, however, are less than its supporters had secretly hoped for, even if just by a little. Becoming the second-strongest party with an opportunity to build a left-wing government based on strong positions as opposed to those put forward by the Socialists had seemed a possibility. This has not been the case, and it remains unclear whether or not the Socialists will manage to find the necessary numbers to form a government. The fact remains that, in any event, Podemos has shaken up the institutional framework and the party unites a lot of the dissatisfaction currently being felt within certain sections of society. This is mainly within a class of the population who have a higher degree of education but yet are working in precarious conditions. A great number of people can no longer identify with Spain’s old political and social formations.
Alberto Garzón’s result seems to be the most significant one: he managed to become represented in Parliament. At the same time, it is excellent to see that in some of the regions in which the Left has campaigned as a united group, it won an absolute and significant majority.
On Monday, El País published an article with the headline “Welcome to Italy”, listing the results by region and electoral district. This headline was chosen to express the impossibility of forming a majority government and Spain’s political fragmentation.
One day later, Podemos and Unidad Popular presented their proposal to form a “purpose” government in order to resolve certain social priorities and to tackle electoral law.
On the other hand, outgoing president of the PP Mariano Rajoy, after observing that the new party Ciudadanos has not won enough seats to gain the much-hoped-for conservative majority, tried to come to an agreement with the PSOE to form the Spanish version of the great coalition, which was rejected by Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez. Over the next few days, Sánchez will have to attempt to find the necessary number of deputies to guarantee a majority enabling him to form a coalition government.
It remains to be seen whether or not new elections will be held which lead to new results and a less unstable situation.