The Post Election Landscape: Thoughts from Spain


My name is Héctor. I am 25 years old and I am a political and international relations analyst. I work at a think tank in the beautiful city of Barcelona.  What I write here reflects solely my own views.

After the elections to the European Parliament and after an intense electoral night, it is time to bring back order in the chaos of thoughts. Since I am originally from Catalonia I herewith humbly offer some readings of the Catalan, Spanish and European electoral results.

Even though Spain has only one electoral district, the results in Catalonia give reason for some reflections different from the ones in the rest of Spain. The political party who got the most votes in Catalonia is the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), a pro independence party that had not won an election since before the dictatorship (1939-1975). It is the first time they have run for elections without forming a coalition with other leftist independence parties from the rest of Spain, and they will contribute two seats to the European Free Alliance. The governing party, a centre-right independence party formed by a coalition that split in the European Parliament to seat with EPP and ALDE, has now become the second party in Catalonia. The other party that has improved its results is ICV-EU, an eco-socialist party which seats with the Greens. What these three parties have in common is the intention to hold a referendum the 9th of November which, theoretically, will decide if Catalonia becomes an independent country. As this is considered illegal and contrary to the Spanish constitution, the Popular Party and the Social Democrat Party in Spain oppose the referendum. In Catalonia, these two parties have lost many votes, especially the Socialist Catalan Party, that had won all but two European elections is now the third force. These two parties have also lost votes because of the bipartisanship crisis. It also has to be mentioned that the participation in Catalonia increased with 10.5% in comparison to the 2009 elections when it was around 36%. This is not only the case because the independence parties promised to take the independence debate to Brussels but also because voters wanted to send the message that in the case of Catalonia’s independence, they do not want to be out of the European Union.

In Spain, the Popular Party and the Socialist Party have taken turns in governing the country since the end of the dictatorship. Traditionally, they obtained much more than 50% of the votes, for example in 2009 they obtained more than 80%; however, in the European elections of 2014 they got slightly less than 50%. Some analysts have predicted the end of bipartisanship but it remains to be seen if the new forces will be able to get similar results in national elections. In any case, bipartisanship has received a serious blow in these elections. Special attention deserves the emergence of Podemos (We can); a left-wing Eurocritical protest party that has denounced corruption, bipartisanship and austerity. Being only 4 months old, it has won 5 seats in the European Parliament. It seems that this party – along with IU (United Left) which obtained 6 seats, four more than in 2009; and Primavera Europea (European Spring), a coalition of green left-wing parties which gained one seat as it had none – has collected the votes coming from the protest movement known as 15-M which emerged in Spain in 2011. Voters are specially fed up with the traditional parties and have used the European elections to punish them; however, it is impossible to know if this phenomenon will last.

Regarding Europe, the good news is that the turnout has stopped its drop around 40% and that Eurosceptic forces have not won the significant number of seats in order to represent a real threat to the governability of the European Parliament. The bad news is that the European Popular Party has won the elections; and although this does not mean that had the socialists won the elections, it would have been the end of austerity, the EPP victory signifies more and more severe austerity. Now the Member States will start deciding who will occupy the relevant positions in the European Union. If the Member States appoint a different person than the candidates presented by the different political groups for the Presidency of the Commission, this would be fateful for the EU. My bet is that Schulz will become President of the Commission, because Merkel does not like Juncker and the German social democrats are her governing partners. Appointing Schulz as the President of the Commission would satisfy her German partners and European social democrats and would leave her some room to appoint the High Representative and, even more important, the President of the European Council. If the President of the Commission is a German social democrat male, is there any possibility that the President of the European Council would be a French female of the European Popular Party? Any thoughts?

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