Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SPAIN: Stalemate looms after Election

Spain, a country accustomed to tight election results and coalition talks, went to the poll on Sunday, six months after its last general election. The result reflects the state of political dismay that has dominated Spain for some time now.

Mr Rajoy and his popular Party were the clear winners in Sunday night, but the changes of forming a stable government-or any kind of government, for that matter--are poor all the same. The numbers tell a simple story: The PP and centrist Ciudadanos Party together hold 169 seats in parliament. The Socialists and Unidos Podemos, together command 156 seats. Both blocs, assuming they can even come to an agreement, would still be far from the absolute majority, which requires 176 votes in Spain's congress. 

To break the deadlock, the most likely option is that a PP-led minority government, though Mr Rajoy would still need the Socialists to either abstain or vote for him, It is hard to see that happening without wrenching change inside the PSOE. 

Backrooms talks to see which parties can form a governing coalition, a task that eluded them despite months of negotiations following the December vote, seems to be impossible war to break again.  Mr Mariano Rajoy hopes to put together a coalition as soon as possible, ideally involving his party's traditional adversaries, the socialist PSOE, led by Pedro Sanchez. But two days after the election, both Pedro Sanchez and Albert Rivera, leader of the centrist Ciudadanos party, have declined the offer. 

A PP led minority government remains the most likely outcome of the Sunday election. If the stalemate materialises again, the PP, which won 137 seats, 14 seats up from from 123 in December but short of the 176 needed for an outright majority, will be the only alternative to a third round of elections. This should in principle allow the other parties to justify their abstention in an investiture vote to facilitate a PP led administration. Another possibility would be a German style grand coalition.

Spain has learning curve ahead: its de facto two-party system that narrowed representation but allowed the country to function as en efficient quasi-presidential system for almost 40 years has been squashed by an electorate sick and tired of the same old party tricks: a new era of true parliametarianism is upon them. 

The real question is whether the Spanish political parties are up to the test. Can they leave behind the rigid party discipline required by a presidential system and adopt a more flexible approach to government demanded by a real parliament?

Spain which has been without a government since December, remains deeply fragmented after the country's second inconclusive election in six months, in which Mariano Rajoy's conservative People Party increased its seat count but fell short of the 176 needed to secure a majority in the 350 seat congress of deputies.

By Guylain Gustave Moke

Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo of : Spain Incumbent Prime Minister: Mariano Rajoy.