Spain has had a year of elections which saw the centre right Partido Popular first sweep the board in the town hall and some regional elections last May before winning an outright majority at the general election at the end of November. This left just two regional government elections to go and both were held on March 25 in Andalucía and Asturias. However all eyes were on Andalucía because it is the largest region in Spain and has also been a socialist stronghold for 30 years: if the government in Sevilla fell into the Partido Popular’s hands then their victory would be complete.
I made the observation after the November general election that although the PP now formed the new government without having to rely on any other party it was a victory built on sand. The country wanted changed and the vote of the ruling socialists, PSOE, collapsed. However the voters did not swing behind the centre right, the majority simply abstained. Hence Mariano Rajoy as prime minister has not enjoyed a lengthy honeymoon with the voters: indeed it was more of a one-night stand. Spain recently had a general strike over the labour reforms just days after the Andalucía general election and a day before “the toughest budget in Spain’s history”. Health and education reforms, or vicious cuts as the left opposition have dubbed them, are on their way: expect a year of anger and discontent.
The true anger and discontent right now though is in the leadership of the Partido Popular. The centre right party did emerge for the first time as the largest in MP terms in Andalucía after the regional election but it will not govern. The combined forces of PSOE and the far left Izquierda Unida easily outgun them but what is more Andalucía didn’t swing to the right it went firmly still further to the left.
The PP managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. Its election strategy and campaign were at fault; it lacked political humility, it was arrogant in its announcements and many of its messages simply lacked credibility.
The result was the centre right party lost the support of 410,000 people in Andalucía between the November general election and Andalucía polling day. Yes it increased its MPs from 47 to 50 but 55 is the absolute majority in the Andalucía parliament. PSOE took 47, the real winners in this election was Izquierda Unida who doubled its MPs to 12, taking the left alliance to 59: well over the victory line.
Here are some key statistics:
The socialists bounced back from their general election hammering in Andalucía were they lost 400,000 votes and 14 seats to be practically tying with the PP.
The PSOE and IU coalition won over 400,000 more votes than the right.
Andalucía has 771 municipalities: PSOE won 554 of them. The socialists won 72 per cent of the villages and towns and seven out of the eight provinces in Andalucía.
Add the PSOE and IU votes and they won in 640 out of the 771 municipalities and 83 per cent of the villages and towns. The left’s combined vote won in all eight provinces.
PSOE won almost three times more municipalities than the PP and when the vote is added to the IU’s the left were the victors in three out of every five.
The startling result is that the socialists have bounced back from defeat in record time and with the far left IU has gone on to triumph in Spain’s largest region. Indeed if you look at the electoral map of Andalucía it is clearly redder than ever before: socialism certainly isn’t dead in southern Spain.
(A version of the above article appeared in The Morning Star on Thursday April 12 2012)