Far-right Vox holds the balance of power in Spain after snap election

a disappointed Sanchez shaking hands with Feijoo after conceding defeat

A sudden vote led to a change of power in Spain, where the left-leaning alliance fell short of a majority and the extreme-right Vox party gained more seats.

The election results gave the most seats to the People’s Party (PP), a moderate conservative group. Out of the 350 seats in the lower house of parliament, they won 125 with almost 29% of the votes, based on the initial reports. However, it did not get enough seats to govern alone, and will have to seek a coalition with other parties.

The most likely ally for the PP is Vox, which came third with 15.8% of the votes and 54 seats, its best result ever. Vox opposes the European Union, immigration and diversity. They also reject feminism and support nationalism. It has also advocated for a crackdown on Catalan separatism and illegal immigration.

The incumbent Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) suffered a major setback, losing 32 seats and dropping to second place with 23.5% of the votes and 88 seats. Its coalition partner, Unidas Podemos, also lost ground, winning only 10.3% of the votes and 36 seats.

Since 2019, the left-wing parties were ruling with a weak government. They formed the government after two rounds of voting that failed to produce a decisive winner. However, their tenure was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Spain hard and caused a deep economic recession. They struggled with the pressure from the parties that sought to break away from Spain in Catalonia and the Basque Country. They also faced criticism from the parties on the right that opposed them.

The snap election was called by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in April 2023, after his government lost a crucial budget vote in parliament. Sánchez hoped to capitalize on his handling of the vaccination campaign and the recovery funds from the EU, but his gamble backfired as voters turned to the right.

The election also marked the end of Citizens, a liberal party that had been a key player in Spanish politics until 2019, when it collapsed due to internal divisions and strategic mistakes. The party decided not to run in this election, opting to focus on the 2024 European Parliament election instead.

The election shows that Spain is divided and split politically. No party can rule by itself and they have to work with others. But these alliances are weak and don’t last long. The PP will have to negotiate with Vox to form a government, but this could entail concessions on sensitive issues such as immigration, territorial unity and social rights.

The PSOE will have to regroup and rebuild its support base, while Unidas Podemos will have to deal with its internal differences and leadership crisis. The parties from the regions, like the ERC and Junts from Catalonia, will keep asking for more freedom or separation from Spain.

The election also shows that Spain is not immune to the rise of populism and nationalism in Europe, as Vox joins other far-right parties such as France’s National Rally, Italy’s League and Germany’s Alternative for Germany in challenging the mainstream political order.

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