Published: Tue, April 30, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Spain's Sanchez weighs options after election win, outlook murky

Spain's Sanchez weighs options after election win, outlook murky

The Citizens party has, meanwhile, secured 57 seats, while the far-right Vox party has obtained 24 seats.

The outcome vindicated Sánchez's modest but determined campaign, demonstrating that centre-left parties can still win European elections by pursuing left-of-centre, socially liberal policies and attacking the far right.

The emergence of Vox at a national level comes after it burst onto the scene in December regional polls in southern Andalusia, gaining almost 11 per cent of votes.

Alternatively, Sanchez could turn to center-right Ciudadanos.

Sweden's Social Democrats managed to remain the country's largest party last year - and, perhaps a greater challenge, to form a government afterwards - while the centre-left came top in Finnish elections this month for the first time in 20 years.

Turnout in Sunday's vote was around 75pc, up more than eight points since the previous election in 2016.

But analysts believe it could do better, saying there may be many "hidden" Vox supporters who lie when asked by pollsters who they will be voting for, and it could prop up a right-wing government.

In any second round of voting, Sanchez would need only a simple majority to get his government voted in, which the Socialists and Podemos could do with backing of all regional parties except the Catalans, plus one abstention.

The big loser was the PP, which lost more than half its seats in the lower house of parliament and also lost control of the senate to the Socialists.

High turnout figures boosted expectations that the incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialist party (PSOE) would win, albeit falling far short of a majority.

"One must be honest: [Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro] Sanchez already has a government with [Pablo] Iglesias, [the leader of the Unidas Podemos alliance], and the support of nationalists".

In an editorial on Monday, Madrid daily El Mundo called on Sanchez to "reach out to Rivera and consider forming a moderate government - which would undoubtedly go down well in Europe - to ensure the stability" of the country.

Founded by Santiago Abascal, a former member of the PP, with a strong stance against feminism and illegal immigration, Vox has stood out with ultra-nationalist rhetoric that advocates the "defence of the Spanish nation to the end" and a hard line against separatists in Catalonia.

The issue has continued to cast a pall over Spanish politics.

Alternatively he could look to form a centrist coalition with Ciudadanos, which would hand the two parties a clear majority. "Reading their program is like something from 50 years ago", she said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party, called the vote after failing to garner support in Congress for his 2019 budget plan.

The numbers also show that Prime Minister Sanchez could continue with his current governing arrangement, counting on the parliamentary support of Podemos, Catalan secessionists and Basque nationalists, which also have increased their representation in the national parliament.

Sanchez has not ruled out that option, though it appeared less likely after Ciudadonos leader Albert Rivera repeated after the election that he would be in the opposition.

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