The highly polarised political landscape in Spain is set to have an impact on the European Parliament elections in favour of the bloc's growing right. (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

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Trends ‘favour Spanish right-wing victory’


The highly polarised political landscape in Spain is set to have an impact on the European Parliament elections in favour of the bloc’s growing Right.

The 350-seat Spanish Parliament is highly fragmented, with eight political parties regularly duking it out to build fragile alliances to rule the country.

Despite a challenging election last year, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez remains top dog. He and his Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) have managed to hold onto power, and currently lead a minority government with the progressive party Sumar.

“[It’s] the second coalition Government in the history of Spain”, Jordi Rodríguez-Virgili, a communications professor at the Universidad de Navarra, told Brussels Signal.

Sánchez is still struggling. Since the July 2023 national elections, the PSOE has faced major defeats on key pieces of legislation, including the recently failed vote on the controversial amnesty bill for Catalan secessionists.

They have also suffered subsequent political defeats at the local level, losing five of its 14 seats in Galicia’s regional parliament after an election in February.

“The trends since May 2023’s regional and municipal elections foreshadow a victory for the [centre-right] Partido Popular (PP),” said Rodríguez-Virgili.

At the time of writing, the latest polls in Spain gave the PP a 10-point advantage over the PSOE. This is compared to its narrow victory over the party in last year’s elections, during which PP eclipsed its left-wing rivals by less than two per cent.

“It is important to remember the PP is the largest party in Congress,” added Rodríguez-Virgili, emphasising the centre-right group’s size despite it being relegated to opposition as a result of PSOE’s controversial alliance with Catalan separatists, a move needed to allow Sánchez to hold onto Spain’s premiership.

The PP also dominates the Senate and governs in 11 of 17 Autonomous Communities. In some, such as Castilla y León and Extremadura, the PP governs in coalition with VOX.

According to Rodríguez-Virgili, this “territorial power” allows the right-wing to exert “a strong opposition”.

He told Brussels Signal that Spain used to have an “imperfect two-party system”, dominated by the PSOE and the centre-right PP. They two remain the largest parties in the country.

Since Felipe González (PSOE) became Prime Minister in 1982, the PSOE and the PP have rotated the premiership every other legislative term. First, with PP’s José María Aznar in 1996, then the PSOE with Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2004 and the PP again with Mariano Rajoy in 2011.

But “[in] the political dynamic with the 2015 Spanish General Election”, two new parties entered the Spanish Parliament: “Podemos, left of the PSOE and the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party in the centre”, Rodríguez-Virgili pointed out.

In 2018, VOX, a then-new Conservative party to the Right of the PP, entered the regional Anadalucia Parliament. It is now the third-largest bloc in Parliament.

According to Rodríguez-Virgili, these parties capitalised on public discontent, with the hard-left Podemos party using economic anxiety to build support while Ciudadanos and VOX focused more on the perceived placation of Catalan separatism.

While Podemos and Ciudadanos have since largely disappeared from the national political landscape, they are still expected to have a small yet significant impact on the EU elections.

Unlike populist outlets in other parts of Europe, both Podemos and VOX remain largely positive regarding Spain’s membership of the EU.

Though both groups are critical of certain European policies, Rodríguez-Virgili emphasised that neither is looking to ferment any Brexit-like sentiments amongst its voters.

“Spain does not have anti-European parties,” the professor said.