Spain election 2019 EXPLAINED: Spain facing another political shift as election looms

Spain will head to the polls on Sunday, April 28, in yet another round of voting in an increasingly fractious political landscape. This latest election was called by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, after rightwing parties and separatist Catalan parties rejected his 2019 budget in February. Mr Sánchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) took office in June 2018 after ousting Mariano Rajoy’s corruption-riddled People’s Party (PP) in a motion of no-confidence.

But PSOE, a minority government, holding just 84 of the 350 seats in the Spanish congress falling the last general election in 2016, has faced an uphill battle.

Mr Sanches has been criticised for taking too soft an approach to the topic of Catalonia independence and for obeying the parties who helped him clinch power too readily.

In a televised address following the rejection of his budget in February, Mr Sanches said: “Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget, and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second.

“Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense.”

What are the key issues?

According to the latest survey from Spain’s Centre for Sociological Research (CIS), people identify the country’s biggest problems as:

  • Unemployment (61.8 percent)
  • Corruption and fraud (33.3 percent)
  • Spain’s politics, politicians and parties (29.1 percent).

The issue of immigration was the main worry of just 8.9 percent of those surveyed.

And the issue of Catalan independence appears to trouble just 11 percent of those polled.

However, polls are not always accurate, and the issue of Catalan independence has remained one of the dominant political themes of the past few years and will have a strong role in the election.

Which are the main parties in the running?

There are five key parties to watch in this election – especially interesting in a country which was long dominated by two (PSOE and PP).

1: Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE.

PSOE has struggled to find a solution to the Catalan independence situation, but it has gained some popularity by raising the minimum wage to 22 percent.

2: People’s Party (PP)

The PP governed from 2011 until last year, when Marioano Rajow was replaced by Pablo Casado after deep-rooted corruption was laid bare. Under Mr Casado the party has swung increasingly to the right. This campaign has been marked by a few major errors, as well as the promise of a tougher approach to Catalan independence, the possibility of a return to more restrictive abortion laws and come out against the PSOE’s moves to introduce a euthanasia law.

3: Citizens-Party

Centre-right Citizens achieved a breakthrough in the 2015 election, ending the PSOE and PP hegemony. The party has also shifted further to the right in recent months, and made the Catalan crisis a key focus. Before the no-confidence vote, Citizens was leading the polls, but has paid dearly for its decision not to back Sánchez’s successful bid to unseat the PP.

4: Podemos

The anti-austerity Podemos, born of frustration and the ‘indignados’ movement, looked set to overtake PSOE as the dominant leftwing political force in the 2016 general election. But internal spats and mixed messaging have weakened its image of late.

5: Vox

Vox broke through in last December’s Andalucian regional elections, and now looks set to become the first far-right party to win more than a single seat in congress since 1975. Led by Santiago Abascal, Vox has further fragmented the Spanish right, offering a home to disenchanted PP and Citizens voters. The party has raged against “supremacist feminism and gender totalitarianism”, and complained that existing domestic violence laws are unfairly weighted against men. It has also defended bullfighting and hunting and is hoping to attract PP voters in rural areas.

Who will win?

Current polls suggest the PSOE will finish first and increase its seat count – but will fall well short of a majority.

It is expected to win about 29 percent of the vote, with the PP finishing second with about 20 percent.

The Citizens party is on course to win 15 percent and Podemos 13 percent.

Having never won a seat in congress, Vox is on course to take about 10 percent of the vote.

However, some 40 percent of voters are still undecided, making all predictions a lot less certain.

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