Spanish voters granted Zapatero another 4-year term in office yesterday. The first rule of Spanish politics is confirmed: a high participation leads to a victory of the left. Yesterday, 75.32% of the census cast a vote, the same percentage as in 2004 (75.66%). It would be very interesting to know how many people decided to vote after the assassination on Friday of a local PSOE politician. I would have expected some survey to be conducted on this topic; strangely I find very few references to this deadly terrorist attack, as if everyone wanted to forget it. In any case, the strategy declared off-the-record by Zapatero to increase the political unrest during the campaign has paid the dividend.
That is my summary of the results of yesterdays General Elections, and these are the main facts:
- The PSOE has neatly won the elections (169 seats, 165 in 2004) and is close to a majority (175 seats). It has practically got the same number of votes (11.0 million) as in the previous elections on 14 March, three days after the terrorist attack with the highest death toll of Spanish history.
- The PP has also got more seats (153 yesterday, 148 in 2004) and more votes (10.2 million yesterday, 9.8 in 2004). Not enough.
- The minority parties have lost many seats and votes, both the extreme left (IU: 2 seats in 2008, 5 seats in 2004) and nationalist-secessionist parties. The Catalan nationalists got 14 seats (18 in 2004); the Basque nationalists 6 seats in 2008 (8 in 2004). There has been a transfer of votes from these parties to Zapatero’s. There is no better proof of his radical policy.
- UPyD, a new party created after an initiative by a former PSOE parliamentarian, has got a seat for Madrid, draining votes that had been otherwise for the PSOE. This is one of the most promising results of the elections.
- No anti-immigration party has got any seat in parliament; moreover, the number of votes they have got is negligible. This is indeed a very bad news.
I will not elaborate on the regional distribution of the votes, as I do not think they are relevant to you (but if you are acquainted with the administrative break down of the country you can see the local results here; click on the tabs on top and select the area). Still, it is interesting that you have a look at this map that shows the most voted party by province:
The Catalan, Basque and Andalusian provinces are socialist. At this stage, the break-up of Spain would be good news for all. Unfortunately, after the current result, the PSOE will be interested to make economical concessions to them, other wise they would have to give a farewell to Spanish government.
Zapatero should have no problems to assure the support by the parliament, some financial concessions to the nationalist minorities should be enough. Apparently, Spaniards have confirmed they do not mind the breaking of the current constitutional arrangements, nor his negotiations with the ETA, nor they are afraid of the looming economic crisis. It is expected he will continue with the two first policies, but the economic crisis will bring along no easy times for him.
The PP has shown that it has very loyal followers. Still, I do not see any possibility for them to win any electoral campaign in the close future unless there are major mistakes by the PSOE or a very deep crisis. Mariano Rajoy, the leader lacks the gift of demagogical speech. Mariano Rajoy can only hold the current course, but he will not risk initiating other strategies. It is probable that he resigns. There is not a clear successor, but there are some valuable candidates. The PP will face difficult times because of its lack of ideological definition. They have managed the country, but they have not set a policy. This is the universal problem of the moderate right. If the drift towards the left (they say the centre, of course) continues, there is an increasing risk that the party will break away.
The first goal of the PP should be to keep the party united. In order to do it, they should avoid sliding to the centre. They will not get many votes there and they will increase the risk of breaking the party. It is preferable that they let UPyD have some ground there. Still, this will not be enough; they need a populist party to pump out the votes of middle-lower classes, which are those most hurt by the economic crisis and the immigration. This is essential, because the extreme left is in the process of disappearing; Zapatero is radical enough, the PSOE can get all those votes. This will make a victory even more difficult for the PP, as the former extreme left voters will support the PSOE.
In summary, the only way out I can envisage consists of the surge of the UPyD, a moderate left party, and the creation of a populist party that would get votes from the left without undermining the right. The surge of the UPyD could start to be visible in the next regional elections, in 2011. Unfortunately, no reasonable populist party can be envisaged at this point. And the clock continues ticking.