Podemos’s lead candidate Teresa Rodriguez.
By Dick Nichols, Barcelona
March 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The March 22 regional elections in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous
and second-poorest region, opened this year's critical election
This election cycle includes local government and 13 regional
elections on May 24 and a September 27 poll in Catalonia that will
double as an independence referendum. It will culminate in national
Spanish elections in November.
The future course of politics in the Spanish state and Europe will greatly depend on the results of these contests.
The outcome of the Andalusian election confirmed the rise of
one-year-old radical Podemos (“We Can”). But it also left the
Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) — the main opposition party
nationally — as government in a region it has run without interruption
since 1982. Such an unbroken run is unique in the Spanish state.
Despite a 4.1% swing against it, the PSOE’s 35.4% of the vote left it
with 47 seats in the 109-seat Andalusian regional parliament, the same
number it already held.
The result was a success for PSOE regional leader Susana Diaz. It is
already being interpreted by national leader Pedro Sanchez as proof that
the party — running third in most national opinion polls behind the
anti-austerity Podemos — is on the way back.
However, Diaz was helped by the stacked local electoral system. With
just 62.2% of the vote between them, the right-wing Popular Party (PP) —
governing nationally — and PSOE were awarded 73% of the seats. This
masked the degree of erosion of the two-party system at this poll.
Diaz called the election one year early on the pretext of “loss of
trust” in her minor governing partners, the United Left (IU).
This was simply a pretext. Despite recurring tensions within the
PSOE-IU administration, the PSOE’s motive was to hold on to its
Andalusian bastion while this was still possible — exploiting newcomer
Podemos's still incomplete organisation in the region.
Podemos won 14.8% of the vote and 15 seats. Although slightly below
some poll predictions, it tripled its vote from last year's May European
elections to become the third-largest party in the Andalusian
A good part of its success came at the expense of the IU, whose vote fell
from 11.3% to 6.9% — and 12 seats to five. Some came from former PSOE
voters and many people voting for the first time. Participation in the
poll rose 5.2% to 63.9%.
In Cadiz, the province with the highest unemployment rate in Spain, the Podemos vote reached 18.9%.
The biggest loser was the PP of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. It was
the most-voted party in the 2012 Andalusian poll with 40.7% and 50
seats. But on March 22, half a million voters deserted the party. Its
vote collapsed by a third, down to 26.8% and 33 seats.
In 2012, the PP was the leading party in five of Andalusia’s eight
provinces. This time it only managed to come first in one. With a system
of proportional representation, the PP would have been cut to 30 seats.
The PP foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo made an
honest enough assessment of his party’s debacle: “Worse, much worse,
than could have been expected …There had to be budget belt-tightening, there had to be structural
reforms that have touched very sensitive nerves, and as a result people
don’t vote for you.”
One part of the PP vote went to the PSOE, as sections of the
Andalusian business class moved to back their best guarantee of
political stability in the face of the rise of Podemos. Another part was taken by newcomer Citizens, the self-styled “clean
and modern party of the 21st century” posing as an alternative to the
corruption-riddled party of Rajoy.
At its first tilt at Andalusia, the Catalan-based Spanish-centralist
Citizens, with no Andalusian party structure to speak of, won 9.3% and
It relegated IU to fifth position in an Andalusian parliament that
now features five parties instead of three. National IU MP Alberto
Garzon, the party’s lead candidate for the national Spanish elections
and very active in IU’s Andalusian election campaign, described the
result as “totally unsatisfactory”.
The valuable initiatives introduced by IU ministers in areas such as
housing did not save it against the Podemos challenge. However,
according to Garzon, “IU remains a force that is indispensable for
IU seems certain to be the site of debate over the value of the
party’s participation in government in Andalusia. This was always
supported by a large majority of its membership, but a minority pointed
to the cost of association with the pro-austerity PSOE.
Podemos’s lead candidate Teresa Rodriguez said: “After elections all parties cry ‘Victory!’ Not us. We have won 15 seats in parliament, but we have not achieved our
goal because tomorrow the 40 house evictions a day will continue, as
will the million Andalusian unemployed and the million children living
beneath the poverty line.
“Our goal is to win the political majority so as to be able to govern
in favour of the people and with the people as actor in its own
government. Until then we cannot cry ‘Victory!’”
The dispersion of the vote in Andalusia prefigures the likely result in the rest of this year’s Spain-wide elections.
The decay of the discredited PP-PSOE two-party system is multiplying
political representation left and right. The Catalan parliament, for
example, is likely to be divided among eight forces after September 27.
Shift to left
However, underneath this fragmentation lies a shift to the left.
Spanish society has been angered by the huge collapse in employment,
destruction of public services and seemingly unstoppable rise in poverty
In the Andalusia elections, the vote to the left of the PSOE (Podemos
and IU) almost doubled from 11.3% to 20.7%. With the PSOE included in
the category “left”, that vote reached 57.2%, up from 50.8%.
At the same time, the vote for the right (PP, Citizens, Union for Progress and Democracy) has fallen from 44.1% to 39%.
The PSOE’s intention in Andalusia is to form a minority government,
and put the pressure on other forces to support its proposals.
However, either the PP, Citizens or Podemos will have to come to the
party for this to happen. Citizens has already made clear that it will
make any support conditional on Diaz expelling former Andalusian
premiers Jose Antonio Grinan and Manuel Chaves, now facing corruption
charges, from the PSOE.
The PP, which in the face of its own decline has loudly proposed that
parties winning a relative majority in elections automatically form
government, has so far refused to say whether it will allow the PSOE to
form government in Andalusia.
As for Podemos, a tweet from its Andalusia regional organisation
said: “We’re going to be an opposition, the first time this has happened
in Andalusia in 33 years.”
After much argy-bargy, the PSOE is almost certain to form a minority
government in Andalusia — and the coming struggles in its parliament
will have a great impact on Spanish national politics.
[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona.]
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From GLW issue 1047