WHERE TO, SPAIN? Is the Country Headed for New Elections?


The entrance to the Congress of Deputies


Is the Country Headed for New Elections?

by ODALIS ZAPATA in collaboration with GUIDEPOST

As a result of the parliamentary election on the 28th of April 2019, a sense of political uncertainty has been assailing Spain. Pedro Sanchez, of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), who came to power after a successful Vote of No Confidence that ousted the then Prime Minister (President of Government), Mariano Rajoy, convened a snap election. This was the one held in April.

Pedro Sanchez announces the snap election for 28 April 2019 at a press briefing

The turnout of that election is as follows: 71.8% of the voting population went to the polls, up 5.3% from the last election. This would suggest a hike in voter interest.

PSOE won 123 seats in the Lower Chamber of the Spanish Parliament, the Congress of the Deputies, where true political power resides. That’s 38 seats more than what the party won in the previous election. Partido Popular won 66 seats, down 69 seats from the previous election. Ciudadanos won 57 seats, up 25 seats. Unidas Podemos garnered 42 parliamentary seats, down 29.

These were the results for the four leading national parties.

Despite the fact that PSOE won the largest number of seats, it was a minority victory, failing to reach the absolute majority (176 seats out of 350) that would have guaranteed airtight confidence of Congress for Pedro Sanchez who aspired to be invested President.  As it is, Sanchez needed to cull support from a hodgepodge of other parties for his investiture.

During two days – 23 and 25 July – the Congress of the Deputies held plenary sessions to invest the candidate with its confidence or withold it from him. Though no candidate from the other parties had any real possibility of obtaining the confidence of the majority of the parliamentarians,and Sanchez was the only viable candidate, he still failed to bag that confidence. In the final session, 124 deputies voted in his favor, 155 voted against, and 67 abstained from voting at all.

Congress of Deputies Plenary Hall

Because of the failed investiture, Article 99 of the Spanish Constitution kicked in automatically. The succeeding two months became a period whereby a new aspirant may present him/herself for the office.

But in order to qualify as candidate, he/she must have a credible potential parliamentary support. If no candidate qualifies, or if the new candidate also fails to win the confidence of Congress, a new parliamentary election will have to be held. The date for that election will be the 10th of November 2019.

Spanish Constitution
Article 99

King Felipe VI of Spain: The King appoints the applicant for Presidency if the latter gains the confidence of Congress. If not, the King calls for new election.

If the Congress of Deputies, by vote of the absolute majority of its members, invests [the] candidate with its confidence, the King shall appoint him President. If an absolute majority is not obtained, the same proposal shall be submitted for a new vote forty-eight hours after the previous vote, and it shall be considered that confidence has been secured if it passes by a simple majority.

If, after this vote, confidence for the investiture has not been obtained, successive proposals shall be voted upon. . .  

If within two months after the first vote for investiture no candidate has obtained the confidence of Congress, the King shall dissolve Congress and call new elections, following endorsement by the Speaker of Congress.

Given the climate of political uncertainty, I went out to the Puerta del Sol in Madrid where, on any given day, a presumable cross-section of the Spanish population congregates either for a leisurely spell around the fountains, to listen to the street musicians, to meet up with friends, to meet new people, to join or at least watch the demonstrations that are often held in that plaza, or simply to pass through to other parts of the city. Puerta del Sol, you see, is the geographic center of the Kingdom of Spain, the “Kilometro 0”.

Intrigued as to what everyday folk feel about a possible trek to the polls again, I approached twelve people (five women and seven men) and asked, “In your opinion, will there be a new election?”

Puerta del Sol

All twelve, all in their 20s, responded positively. Twenty-five year old Carlos Felipe said, “There’s no other way out” of the political deadlock but a new election.

I then asked: “If there were an election today, would you vote?” Ten of the respondents said yes. Marius T. said he’d do “anything” that will “help the place (Spain) whereI live.” By that, he meant if it would help, he’d vote again.

Two answered negatively. Carlos Felipe said he wouldn’t vote again. “It’s too stressful to be voting again and again,” he declared.

When I asked if it’s good or bad to hold another election, ten said it’s to the good to vote again. Guille C. thinks a new election is “a good idea.” He doesn’t mind voting as many times as is needed until “we get it all figured out.” Twenty-seven year old Maria L. was quite sure. She said, “Of course” she’ll vote again.

Logo of the UCD party that won the largest number of votes in the 1977 elections for a constituent assembly.

Carlos Felipe, who thinks it’s a bad idea to have another election, said a new one will set off another round and another and another. “They will keep happening” was his dire prediction. Michael V. said everyone should make do with the first election: “We need to get by” with the results of the election in April.

More than forty years of democracy – the first democratic election in Spain, after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, was held in 1977 to elect the Congress of the Deputies and the Senate whih would form a constituent assembly for the drafting of a democratic constitution – doesn’t seem to have cured the Spanish people of their reticence in owning up to their party affiliation. My twelve respondents wouldn’t elaborate on their answers to my three meager questions. They said they didn’t like talking about politics.

It’s hard to tell if the answers I got from the twelve young people I talked with reflect the prevailing sentiment of Spanish voters toward the political situation in the country, my little “survey” being awfully limited. If there’s anything certain about it, it was the wariness they displayed in talking about politics. Only Carlos Felipe was vocal enough.


Featured image/Fred Romero, CC BY2.0, cropped
Sanchez announcing snap election/Pool Moncloa-Fernando Calvo
Plenary Hall, Congress/Pool Moncloa-Fernando Calvo
Felipe VI/Ruben Ortega, CC BY-SA2.0 cropped
Puerta del Sol/Mike Norton, CC BY2.0
UCD logo, PD