Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos

Podemos’ potential coalition partners are likely limited to leftist parties whereas if Ciudadanos
does well enough in the upcoming election the PP and the PSOE might need its
support in order to form a majority in the Congress of Deputies


by James Gregora

By law, this year’s general election in Spain will take place between the 20th of November at the earliest, when the legislature is wrapped up, and the 20th of December at the latest.   The Spanish political landscape has shifted significantly since the last parliamentary election in 2011, with several newly formed political parties polling in double digits.  As the support for the two mainstream parties has declined, previously unknown third and fourth parties have wandered onto the political scene.  Below is a brief overview of the major players in the upcoming general election.


Partido Popular (PP)

JAMES GREGORA PP logo 1The center-right party of incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has the most to lose in the slated election.   The PP defeated the previous government in 2011 in the wake of the financial crisis, winning 186 out of 350 seats, the largest parliamentary majority won by any party since 1982.

However, the PP’s popularity has waned considerably since then.  Some opinion polls show the party hovering between twenty-five and thirty percent of the vote, down from their 45% landslide in 2011.  The party has suffered in part due to an unemployment rate of 24%, and its hardline fiscal policy, cutting government spending in order to slow the growth of Spain’s national debt.  The government is currently borrowing 6% of GDP per year, down from the height of government borrowing in 2010, when it was 11%.  Prior to 2009, with PSOE then the party in power, the government collected more money than it spent.

In order to win the election later this year, PP must convince voters that its fiscal policy is necessary to facilitate economic growth and that Spain is on the road to recovery thanks to the harsh measures it has had to pass.


Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE)

JAMES GREGORA_PSOE logoThe socialists, who in 1982 won the largest majority ever won by a single political party in Spain’s democratic regime (48.11% of the votes cast/202 parliamentary seats),  took a considerable beating in the last election, falling from 43% of the votes in 2008 to just 29% in 2011.  Moreover, despite the PP’s unpopularity, recent opinion polls appear to show the PSOE’s share of the vote dropping into the low to mid 20s.

The party regained power in 2004, following what was widely perceived as a poor response by the PP government to the Madrid subway bombings.  The PSOE’s record has been overshadowed by the 2008-09 financial crisis and its subsequent fallout.  During its tenure, the PSOE withdrew Spanish forces from Iraq, introduced same-sex marriage, and granted the Catalonian government greater fiscal autonomy.

Presently PSOE’s growth is hampered by upstart parties the likes of Podemos and Ciudadanos, with a recent survey indicating that it will lose more than a third of its 2011 voters to these two parties.   If it intends to win the election, the PSOE must not only convince its disaffected voters to return to the fold but also to convince the voters of other leftist parties that they would do good casting their lot with the socialists.



JAMES GREGORA podemos logoThough it currently has no seats in parliament, radical leftist Podemos has enjoyed significant popularity following a string of unprecedented election results for a party that’s only 1 ½ years old.  Podemos won five of Spain’s 56 seats in the European Parliament just four months after its formation, and garnered 20.5% of the vote in the municipal elections last May.  Most opinion polls show the party carrying roughly 20% of the popular vote, which could make it the second or third-largest party in the next parliament.

Podemos was founded by Pablo Iglesias Turrión, previously a lecturer at the Complutense University of Madrid and a former member of the Communist Youth Union, in January 2014.  The party’s program includes reversing the fiscal cuts enacted by the Rajoy government, nationalizing private banks and putting an end to precarious employment.

If the party’s incredible upsurge, as reflected by the results of the last two elections, continues, Podemos could find itself forming part of the central government or, failing that, becoming one of the strongest parties in the opposition.



JAMES GREGORA Ciudadanos logoIt is difficult to pinpoint the exact place of Ciudadanos on Spain’s political spectrum, but given that it currently stands at around 15% in national opinion polls, it is a feat many commentators are desperately trying to accomplish.

Founded in Catalonia in 2006 as a regional party, Ciudadanos started going national in 2013.  Its policies include cutting corporation tax from 30% to 25%, reducing the VAT from 21% to 16-19%, banning political donations from non-individuals, and introducing a system of judicial elections in which sitting judges will vote for candidates for judicial vacancies. The party believes this will free the judiciary from political interference.

While Podemos’ potential coalition partners are likely limited to leftist parties, Ciudadanos may share some common values with both the PP and the PSOE.  If the party does well enough in the coming election, the PP and the PSOE might need its support in order to form a majority in the Congress of Deputies, and Ciudadanos will predictably demand the implementation of some of its policies in exchange for that support.


Featured image: Albert Rivera by Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA4.0
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