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Drawing lessons from the Spanish election
Spain’s election has failed to break the country’s political impasse. The ruling Socialists took first place but with a reduced share of the vote and no clear path to a stable government, while the far-right Vox party received a big increase in support.
The FT’s Europe editor Ben Hall writes that Spain’s political deadlock after Sunday’s election offers some uncanny parallels with the UK.
1) Boris beware. Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez called the vote, the fourth in four years, to give himself more authority to form a strong government. But his gamble failed and although the Socialists came first, the left lost ground as weary voters stayed at home. Mr Sánchez now has an even weaker hand.
2) Fragmentation. The centre-left and centre-right, which alternately dominated Spanish politics for nearly four decades after the end of dictatorship, together now account for less than half of the votes (Labour and the Tories account for about two-thirds according to current polls). Spain has become a five-party system, with a plethora of regional and secessionist parties.
3) Secessionist support. Mr Sánchez may now try to form a minority government with the far-left and regional parties. But he will also need other parties to abstain, including the Republican Left, a pro-Catalan independence group and possibly the liberal Ciudadanos. Jeremy Corbyn could be looking at a similar line up, in his case with the SNP, if the Conservatives falter and he tries to form a coalition government. Pro-independence forces in both Scotland and Catalonia will try to use their leverage to the full.
4) Identity politics. Catalonia’s illegal independence push in 2017 and the strong nationalist backlash against it in the rest of Spain now looks like the dominant political axis of Spanish politics just as Brexit has eclipsed traditional ideological divides in the UK. Vox, a far-right party, more than doubled its seat share and Ciudadanos, in theory a centrist party, collapsed.
There are, of course, many differences between Spain and Britain: the former has a proportional voting system; Catalonia is a regional crisis and the secessionists a minority in the region let alone the rest of Spain. But political trends across Europe have more and more in common.