Pedro Sánchez pulverizes polls and could govern Spain again

Defying all odds, the Socialists of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez only narrowly lost to the Conservatives in the legislative elections this Sunday in Spain but they are in a position to renew their mandate with the support of other parties.

With virtually 100% of the votes counted, Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s Popular Party (PP) got 136 deputies and the PSOE 122, while their respective potential allies, the far-right party Vox and the radical leftist Sumar, got respectively 33 and 31.

“The involutionist block of the Popular Party with Vox have been defeated”, launched Sánchez to the thousands of supporters gathered before the PSOE headquarters in Madrid.

“There are many more of us who want Spain to advance and it will continue like this”he added.

The right-wing PP+Vox bloc has 169 deputies and the left-wing PSOE-Sumar 153, but the latter is in greater measure of getting the support of Basque and Catalan nationalists, and other minority parties to reach the 176 votes that mark the absolute majority in Congress and achieve the investiture.

Many of these parties announced that they would never vote for a government that included the extreme right.

Despite this, Feijóo claimed his victory and asked to form a government: “As the candidate of the most voted party, I believe that my duty” is “to try to govern our country,” he told supporters gathered at the PP headquarters.

They did not believe what happened. “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” Concha Peña, a 70-year-old from Madrid, told AFP in dismay.

“It’s a surprise,” Antonio Barroso, an analyst at the consulting firm Teneo, told AFP. “Sánchez’s challenge is to find a majority, it all depends on one or two seats,” he added.

– Sanchez’s luck –

Pedro Sánchez, 51, five of them in power, thus confirms his reputation as a lucky man, and makes good his risky bet to advance the general elections, after his fiasco in the municipal elections in May.

It was of no use to Feijóo to improve the results of the PP in the 2019 elections by 47 deputies.

Negotiations between the different parties to form a government will presumably begin on Monday, and Parliament will be constituted in a month.

“We can tip the balance”, said the Catalan independence deputy Gabriel Rufián, whose ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) party won 7 deputies, and who announced that he would request an independence referendum in exchange for his support for Sánchez.

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“Our votes will be decisive once again,” agreed Andoni Ortuzar, from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which won five seats.

– Fear of Vox mobilizes the left –

Once the Parliament has been constituted, King Felipe VI will receive representatives of the different parliamentary forces and will propose a candidate for the investiturewhich must have the support of the absolute majority of the Congress of Deputies, in a first vote, or simple majority in the next.

If, in short, there was not a viable majority, neither on the right nor on the left, the country would be headed for new elections in a few months.

Almost all the polls gave Feijóo a broad winner, and the only debate was whether he would need the extreme right, which would have meant the return of a party of this tendency to the Spanish government for the first time since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

Some 37.5 million voters were called to renew for another four years to the 350 members of the Congress of Deputies and to elect 208 senators.

On a very hot day in the middle of summer, participation was still 70%, higher than in 2019 (66.23%).

Mainly because of the holidays, 2.5 million people voted by mail, a record number.

– Relief on the European left –

The survival of the Spanish socialists is a relief for the European left, which already lost Italy last year and which now it governs only half a dozen of the 27 member countries of the European Union.

Spain currently holds the semi-annual presidency of the EU.

A mobilizing factor on the left in these elections was the fear that the extreme right would enter into a government coalition, even closer after the PP and Vox agreed on several local and regional governments.

Sánchez hammered home that such an alliance would be “a setback for Spain” and something frowned upon in Europe, while the leader of Sumar, Yolanda Díaz, said this Sunday night that “people are going to sleep more peacefully.”

“The Popular Party has lost support with the latest moves in the campaign while, in parallel, the Socialist Party has managed to mobilize its electorate,” said Giselle García Hípola, professor of Political Science at the University of Granada.

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