Podemos called for referendums and sent mixed messages, but failed to meet voters’ expectations ahead of the Spanish elections, while the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) won 14 seats more than in the December elections.
Against the backdrop of the most unstable political period not only in Spain but in Europe’s history, Mariano Rajoy, the leader of PP, emerged as the sole winner of the elections on 26 June.
Chief among voters’ uncertainties for the coming years were the political and economic consequences triggered by the victory of the “Leave” camp in Britain’s referendum on the EU, held just three days before the vote.
PP’s self-proclaimed role as guarantor of stability in times of political and economic volatility convinced Spanish voters.
Rajoy won 14 seats more (137 in total) yesterday compared to the inconclusive December elections.
The day after the UK referendum, the Spanish stock market fell sharply. It dropped more than 12%, almost four times more than in the UK. Spaniards went to the polls just two days later.
The pile of corruption cases and the latest scandal affecting the acting minister of home affairs and PP member, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, who spied on nationalist leaders in Catalonia, had no impact on the ruling party.
Rajoy only vaguely referred to Brexit on the campaign trail. He asked for “serenity” in times of high volatility. He confirmed that Spain would continue “at the forefront of the European integration, despite the serious setbacks we face today”.
But his acting economics minister, Luis de Guindos, went further. In the aftermath of the referendum he said that Spain needs a “stable government that creates confidence and credibility”.
Late polls indicated that left-wing party Podemos would join the coalition with the former communist party, driving both the PP and the Socialists to use Brexit to attack the rising star of Spanish politics.
“Crises fuel populist forces”, Soraya Sáez de Santamaría, Rajoy’s deputy, said after the referendum.
Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez also blamed the conservative camp. He claimed that Brexit is “the consequence when populism and irresponsible right-wing forces meet”.
Podemos supported referendums in Spanish regions with strong nationalist movements. Thanks to its alliance with regional forces, the party came first in Catalonia and the Basque Country on 26 June.
But the tactical alliances did not help the left-wing party, as it lost one million votes and did not succeed in becoming the main force among left-wing parties.
“These results are not satisfactory, we had different expectations,” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told an audience when the results were announced.
Although Brexit is seen as the main factor that influenced voters days before the elections, other factors also played an important role in altering results compared to December.
The agreement reached between the Socialists and the liberal party Ciudadanos, backed by many former PP supporters, caused many centre-right supporters to instead vote for the conservative party.
But voters were confused by Podemos’ mixed messaged when the party, which describes itself as a social-democrat party, voters were confused with the mix of messages when the former communists of United Left joined a coalition ahead of the elections.
In light of the results, Rajoy would have an opportunity to form a new government if he gains the support of Ciudadanos and smaller forces like the Basque nationalists and the regional party of the Canary Islands.
Together with these three parties, the conservative leader would be only one seat short of having an absolute majority of 176 seats.
Meanwhile, the European Commission hoped that “a stable government” can be formed in the coming weeks, spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said on 27 June (Monday).
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wrote to Rajoy to congratulate him “for having won the largest number of seats”, Schinas told reporters.