On 28 April, Spanish voters went to the polls for what was their third election in only four years. The governing socialist party (PSOE), led by Pedro Sanchez, had been in power since June 2018 when it ousted the Popular Party (PP) but relied on the support of nationalist Basque and Catalan parties, which proved unsustainable.
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Pre-electoral polling was relatively correct, and the PSOE increased its number of seats from 85 to 123 taking 29% of the vote. The PP meanwhile, suffered its worst-ever performance taking just 16% and only 66 seats. Although the PSOE did not secure an outright majority, there are now several paths for Mr Sanchez to forming a more stable coalition.
The more interesting phenomenon in these elections, however, was the emergence of the far-right Vox party, which took 24 seats and 10% of the vote. Vox, which rails against "political correctness", feminism and regionalism, was only formed in 2014 but grew in prominence last year amid concern in the rest of Spain following the Catalan independence referendum. It espouses a more strident, centralised nationalism, and its entry into parliament marks the far-right's first representation since the collapse of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in 1979.
This rise continues the string of populist victories across the EU, and while tempting to blame its rise on structural factors such as high unemployment or low growth and immigration, Spain's economic indicators are trending positively, while immigration remains relatively small, suggesting a different catalyst. Indeed, polling during the election found that the leading causes of voter concern were corruption and a feeling of increasing disconnect between elitist political parties and 'regular' citizens.
With few European parties committed to radical structural reform, this trend can be expected to continue throughout 2019.
"The more interesting phenomenon in these elections, however, was the emergence of the far-right Vox party, which took 24 seats and 10% of the vote. Vox, which rails against "political correctness", feminism and regionalism, was only formed in 2014..."