Spain’s governing PP loses ground in local elections

Prime Minister Rajoy’s governing People’s Party gets worst local election results of past 20 years as Podemos-backed opposition increases its presence across country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Spain’s incumbent People’s Party (PP) led-by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy got a slim majority on Sunday whereas anti-corruption movements have made gains in local and regional elections.

The PP received a 27 percent popular vote, but it might have lost the city council in Madrid for the first time in the past two decades.

The decline in popular vote given to the PP marked as voters’ punishment for Rajoy who has been maintaining a severe cuts in public spendings and accused for a string of corruption scandals in the last four years.

"It's a drubbing for the PP. The fear factor did not come into play and people voted for Podemos and Ciudadanos," said Jose Pablo Ferrandiz of leading pollster Metroscopia.

Meanwhile, Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE) also got  25 percent of the votes which brought them in the second place ahead of the parliamentary elections which will be held six months later.

The two mainstream parties, which have been interchangeably ruling over Spain since the Franco regime ended, declined to 52 percent of votes they received together in comparison with four years ago when they got 65 percent of the pair in the local and regional elections.

However, both the PP and leading opposition PSOE have been challenged by the rise of populist parties such as Podemos (We can), which promises to fight against tough austerity measures and market-friendly liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens).

"We would have liked the decline of the old parties to have been quicker, but circumstances compel us to keep working on it." said Pablo Iglesias, the leader of radical leftist Podemos.

Podemos also won five seats in last year's European Parliament elections, just months after its launch in January 2014.

The rise of left-wing Podemos is frequently compared with Greece’s newly-elected Syriza Party which also challenged to mainstream Greek polity after the country underwent a huge debt crisis following the financial-economic crisis in Eurozone, starting from 2008.

As the rate of unemployment soared to 23 percent in the wake of Eurozone crisis, the PP and PM Rajoy got severe criticism that enabled the rise of popular left together with ethnic discontent in places such as Catalonia, Basque, and Andalusia.  

A report released by Eurostat shows that five Spanish regions have the highest rate of unemployment in the entire EU, with Andalusia recording the highest rate of 34.8 percent.

Andalusia is followed by Canarias with 32.4 percent, Ceuta with 31.9 percent, Extremadura with 29.8 percent and finally Castilla-la Mancha with 29.0 percent.

Some of these regions stand out with the highest rate of unemployment among youth across the EU with Ceuta at 67.5 percent, Andalusia 61.5 percent, Castilla-la Mancha 61.3 percent and Canarias with 57.4 percent.

The decline in PP also opened a gate for Catalonia’s nationalist parties which have been seeking independence for the richest regional division of Spain in the recent years.

Earlier this year, nationalist parties in Catalonia signed a “road map” agreement to become independent by 2017 if their pro-independence coalition is successful in the regional parliamentary elections on Sept. 27.

The Catalan Nationalist Party, Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and a number of associates agreed to develop a new constitution to be drafted “within 10 months” in the event that they decide to breakaway from Madrid.

The parties also agreed to set up institutions that would be at the foundation of an independent Catalan state, while Catalan President Artur Mas stated in a document the 18 months after the September polls would serve as a transition period towards independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has stood against the secession, saying Catalan independence would be bad for Catalans and "all other Spaniards."

In a non-binding referendum held last November, condemned by Madrid as being “unconstitutional,” over 80 percent of Catalans voted in favour of independence, with a turnout of two million people out of an estimated 5.4 million eligible voters.

TRTWorld and agencies