During the past year the political landscape in Spain has undergone a massive upheaval. For over 30 years the country has been governed by either the Socialist Party (PSOE) or the People’s Party (PP), but that two-party dominance appears to have ended with the results of December’s general election. The ruling PP received the most votes, but they saw their percentage of the vote greatly reduced from 44.6% in the last election (2011) to only 28.7% this time. The PSOE also suffered a serious decline going from 28.8% to 22%. Two new parties on the national scene took most of the rest the votes with Podemos receiving 20.7% and Ciudadanos (C’s) garnering 13.9%. Since no party has a majority there will have to be a coalition government, but if this cannot be agreed upon then there will be new elections in May.
This new era in Spanish politics started with the meteoric rise of Podemos, which means ‘We Can’. Led by former university professor Pablo Iglesias, this ‘populist’ party arose out of protests against the harsh austerity policies that the government imposed on ordinary citizens after the economic crisis. It was officially launched in January, 2014, and was seen by most experts as just another protest party that was destined to quickly fade away… but they were wrong. Podemos rose in the opinion polls and last May did surprisingly well in the regional elections, which allowed them to be part of the government in several regions – including Ibiza.
The rise of Podemos has also paved the way for the centre-right party Ciudadanos, which many refer to it as the “Podemos of the right”. C’s offers an alternative to those who want change, but are afraid that Podemos may be too radical. It also has, in Albert Rivera, a young and charismatic leader of its own to rival Iglesias. C’s would seem a natural coalition partner for the PP, but even if this difficult marriage were made, they would not have enough votes to govern. The same can be said of a coalition consisting of the PSOE and Podemos – not quite enough seats for a majority. Either one of those blocs would need the help of some small parties in order to govern, so it will be very interesting to see which way this goes. Perhaps neither will be able to form a government and Spain will once again go the polls in May. But whatever happens one thing is clear… the political establishment has been greatly shaken up… and things may never be the same.