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In Pedro Sánchez's mind, repeating last April's Spanish general election was a cunning plan. But when the result came out of the ballot boxes this Sunday, November 10th, the reality was something very different. The acting Spanish prime minister, head of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), said he was going to elections with a commitment to achieve a strong government, in order to no longer depend on the Catalan pro-independence parties, and to cut through the Spanish state's political deadlock. The Spanish public survey agency CIS forecast ahead of the vote that he would win up to 150 seats. But the Socialists will have to settle for 120 seats, three less than on 28th April. The gamble has failed terribly, since the deadlock continues and now Sánchez is more dependent on Catalonia. The problem was one of miscalculation, because there was a response in Catalonia to the sentencing of the pro-independence leaders which PSOE strategist Iván Redondo did not expect, and along with this, a rise of the extreme right after the exhumation of the dictator Franco from his mausoleum. All in all, it has been a fiasco.


With respect to the left and right parliamentary blocks, the differences have been reduced. On April 28th the left block held a total of 165 seats and the right had 147. Now, with provisional results in, the PSOE, Unidas Podemos (UP) and new party Más País (MP) have a total of 159, and the right wing trio of the Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (Cs) and Vox add up to 151. What has mostly taken place is movement within each of the blocks, especially on the conservative side of the spectrum, with the rise of an energized and uninhibited extreme right. Sánchez's dilemma remains: to attempt a coalition with a party of the right, which now must be Pablo Casado's PP, or to try and win over the majority that brought him to power in 2018, but after having burnt many more of his bridges with the Catalan independence parties. The voter turnout in the end dropped two points, from close to 72% to just under 70%.

With 96% of votes scrutinized, as the largest political force, the PSOE falls from 123 to 120 seats. In second place, the PP bounces back from 66 to 88 seats. In third place, Vox more than doubles its quota, from 24 to 52 seats. In fourth place, Unidas Podemos drops from 42 to 35, more or less holding its ground. In fifth position is the Catalan Republic Left (ERC), with 13 seats, ahead of Ciudadanos with just 10 seats. Más País led by former key Podemos figure Íñigo Errejón enters Congress with three seats (one of them is from its deal with Compromís in Valencia).

And the new political map of Spain is, unlike that after the April general election, not such a mass of red. Not only due to Catalonia being won by ERC and the Basque Country by PNV. Galicia, Cantabria, Castilla and León and Melilla have fallen to the PP. Navarra has been won by the regional conservative coalition, Navarra Suma. And in Murcia and Ceuta the most voted political party is now the extreme right: Vox.


After Sánchez, the great loser of the night is Ciudadanos' Albert Rivera, who has confirmed the debacle that the polls predicted. Not only has his party lost 47 of the 57 seats it had, but some Cs heavyweights, such as José Manuel Villegas and Juan Carlos Girauta, have lost their seats in the Spanish lower house. Tomorrow, a lot of the focus will be on Calle Alcalá in Madrid, where Cs have their headquarters. What Ciudadanos lost went almost entirely to nourish the votes of the PP and Vox.

On the other hand, Spanish exceptionalism with regard to the far right has ended. Vox has managed to double the results it obtained six months ago, and is now one of the most significant extreme right parties in Europe. The congratulations from Marine Le Pen in France arrived quickly. "We will defend in the Cortes all that we have been defending up until now," party leader Santiago Abascal promised after the night's success had been confirmed. He also promised to appeal to the Constitutional Court "all liberty-killing laws" and vowed to "open the prohibited debates". He also labeled Spain's regional government system of Autonomous Communities as "liberty-killing".

Meanwhile, the Catalan independence movement is stronger in Madrid. ERC is the fifth largest party, Together for Catalonia (JxCat) has risen from 7 to 8, Basque pro-independence party EH Bildu from 4 to 5 and the Catalan far-left independence party CUP now enters with two members. The Basque nationalists PNV also improve their results from 6 to 7 deputies. Apart from Más País, two other parties have won seats: the Galician nationalists BNG have regained representation with one deputy and the Teruel Exists platform, which represents voices from the depopulated, rural Spain, has also won a seat.

Sanchez facing a stronger independence movement

With these numbers, the only leader who can form a government is, once again, Pedro Sánchez, but he is weaker than before. Nevertheless, he still has two options on the table. The first is to return to the majority that brought him to power in the 2018 no-confidence vote, with Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias now holding a powerful argument for a coalition government and Catalan independence stronger than ever, with 24 deputies out of the 48 that are voted in Catalonia. In addition, the PSOE still depends a little more on Catalan and Basque pro-independence parties.

The other option is to look for support on the right. With Albert Rivera deactivated, and unable to provide any useful support for an investiture, the only option remaining is the PP of Pablo Casado, enlarged although slowed down in its growth by Vox. Both Sánchez and Casado have rejected a "grand coalition" during the campaign, but they have not closed the door to an agreement that could allow investiture, such as that which Mariano Rajoy used during Spain's last repeat election in 2016.

The night at Socialist headquarters in Madrid began with total impenetrability. Nobody appeared to give the party's opinion of the polls that were already circulating. There was only the odd voice suggesting that, if the fiasco was confirmed, a head would have to roll. One of the most likely is Iván Redondo, guru of Pedro Sánchez, and designer of the cunning plan for 10th November.