Pedro Sanchez on the defensive in Spain’s local elections

Spain began voting on Sunday in dress rehearsal-like municipal and regional elections ahead of year-end legislative elections, for which polls predict a defeat for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and a comeback. in power from the right. Polling stations opened at 9 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. The first results are expected around 10 p.m. Accompanied by his wife, Pedro Sánchez voted shortly before 9:30 a.m. in an office in Madrid.

The elections concern all of the 8,131 municipalities, ie 35.5 million voters, as well as the assemblies – and therefore also the executives – of 12 of the 17 autonomous regions. 18.3 million voters are affected by this second vote. “If the left does better than expected and manages to retain control of most of the regional governments at stake (…), this will mean that the legislative elections will be very close and will bode well for its chances of staying in power” to the end of the year, said Federico Santi, an analyst at the Eurasiagroup think tank, in a study published this week.

Push from the right expected

But if the polls, which predict a push to the right, are correct, the successes in the regions will provide the leader of the main opposition party, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who is at the head of the People’s Party (PP, conservative), “the momentum” necessary to win the legislative elections in the fall, continues Federico Santi. Prime Minister since 2018, Pedro Sanchez approaches this double ballot with several handicaps: the wear and tear of power, the resumption of inflation – even if it is much lower in Spain than in most other countries of the European Union – and the resulting sharp drop in purchasing power.

So much so that Alberto Nunez Feijoo did everything to turn these elections into a national referendum on Pedro Sanchez, whom he describes as subservient to the far left but also to the Basque and Catalan separatist parties on which his minority government depends in Parliament. to pass his reforms. “I come to ask for the voices of Spain, which wants to put an end to ‘sanchism’ from Sunday,” Feijoo launched Friday evening in Madrid during his last electoral meeting, using the term he coined for describe the Prime Minister’s policy.

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But the right has its weak points

Pedro Sanchez, for his part, campaigned on the record of his government, particularly in the economic field and in that of the fight against drought and water management, an increasingly central theme in Spain. “Social democratic policies suit Spain better than neoliberal policies (because) we manage the economy much better,” he said on Friday evening as he ended his campaign in Barcelona (Northeast).

Pedro Sanchez is all the more vulnerable as, of the 12 regions renewing their assembly, the Socialists lead 10, either directly or as members of a coalition. The number of regions that the PP manages to wrest from the Socialists will determine the perception in public opinion that Feijoo has won – or not – this first round and that his arrival in La Moncloa, the seat of the presidency of the government, at the end of the year is inevitable. He also plays very big.

But Alberto Nunez Feijoo has his own problems. The main one is Vox, a far-right party which constitutes the third force in Parliament and whose ambition is to become an indispensable partner to the People’s Party to govern in the regions, then at the national level. Since last year, the PP and Vox have been governing together in Castile and Leon, a region which will not vote this Sunday. Aware of the fact that the legislative elections will be won at the center, Alberto Nunez Feijoo has endeavored, since his accession to the head of the PP a year ago, to offer the image of a moderate party and therefore to keep Vox at distance. A very good Vox score in many regions would therefore be dangerous for him.

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