Jul 24, 2023, 11:12am EDT

What the far-right’s poor showing means for Spain’s democracy

Spain's opposition People's Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo. REUTERS/Juan Medina

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The News

Spain’s right-wing coalition underperformed in the elections on Sunday, despite winning the largest share of the votes, leaving small, separatist parties holding the balance of power.

Against predictions and polls, the conservative People’s Party did not win the majority of votes required to push out the ruling Socialist Party coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The election results — where neither the center right or center left had enough support to form a government — has left Spain in political limbo.

We’ve curated insights and reporting on what the election’s results mean for Spanish democracy.

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  • The election has produced ”one of the worst possible scenarios,” declared El Mundo editorial board, leaving the country “in the throes of instability and uncertainty.” After the Socialist party’s strong showing, Carles Puigdemont, who led a movement for Catalonia to secede from Spain, has been thrust into the role of kingmaker, as his party’s backing could be crucial for a coalition government to be viable. Were the Socialists to form a governing coalition with the Junts — Puigdemont’s party — it would be the first time in Spain’s history that a party which came second in the general election gains power. El Mundo called for the two major parties to agree not to polarize the country further.
  • Spain showed again that “it doesn’t want a government of the extreme right,” writes Spanish political scientist Máriam Martínez-Bascuñán, contradicting the expectations of most pollsters. A week before the election, polls showed the People’s Party, along with its far-right coalition partner Vox, comfortably in the lead. But the comfort may have led to idleness: In the run-up to the vote, the right’s coalition, assured of victory, took their foot off the campaigning pedal, while the governing Socialists rallied their followers for an “extraordinary mobilization” that proved critical in the votes. At best, the People’s Party won a pyrrhic victory where Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is the true victor, Martínez-Bascuñán writes. — El País
  • Spain took a turn to the right, not to the far-right, according to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. The Popular Party’s surge in votes — it will now hold 136 seats in parliament, a major improvement on the 89 it held previously — showed that a center-right political party is “capable of performing well,” something that has become uncommon throughout Europe. Except for strong showings in Spain and Greece, “mainstream European conservatism is otherwise on the skids,” notably in Germany, France and Italy. “Despite the inconclusive result overall,” The Wall Street Journal’s board wrote, “the revival of another center-right party in Europe this weekend is cause for celebration.”