Election preview: Spain, again

Spain goes to the polls tonight, six months after the last election and two months after its politicians gave up the attempt to make the last parliament work.

It’s hard to think of anything new to say about this. Here is my preview of the last election, which among other things explains how the electoral system works (D’Hondt proportional within each of 52 multi-member constituencies). Here’s my report on the results, and here’s my post from April on the failure of negotiations to form a government.

There are four major parties in parliament – centre-right, centre, centre-left and far left – and after tonight there still will be. None of them is anywhere close to a majority, and after tonight they still won’t be. Last time they comprehensively failed to work out a solution; this time, unless they’re just going to keep having elections indefinitely, they will have to.

Opinion polls indicate almost no change in voting intention from December. Podemos (far left) seems to have picked up a little at the expense of the Socialists (centre-left); Citizens (centre) may also have lost some ground. But unless there’s something that the polls are not picking up, it’s hard to see how that could make a material difference to the parliamentary arithmetic.

As I said two months ago, there’s “no particular reason to think that there’ll be any major change in the numbers and that the same players won’t find themselves back in the same place in a couple of months facing much the same options.” Voters could be excused for saying “Don’t keep asking us – we’ve told you what sort of parliament we want, it’s your job to construct a government out of it.”

The one wild card in the pack is Britain’s vote on Thursday to leave the European Union, and the consequent financial turmoil. It’s possible that will drive some movement back to the centre-right People’s Party, as a guarantor of stability. But it may also work to discredit the right and thereby help the Socialists or even Podemos.

The more specifically Spanish aspect of the issue is the whole question of deciding constitutional questions by referendum. Podemos is the only one of the major parties willing to countenance a referendum on Catalan independence, and the other parties are using the British result to portray that as a dangerous idea. None of them, however, seem to have any alternative strategy to deal with Catalan demands, although as usual the Socialists are more conciliatory than Citizens or the centre-right.

Moreover, for Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, burning bridges with Podemos leaves no other option than a grand coalition with the People’s Party – and if he’d agreed to that in the first place, there would have been no need for a fresh election.

Polls close at 4am eastern Australian time, so results should be available by breakfast time. Try El País for results (only very basic Spanish required).

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