Spain in election mode with four parties in changed landscape

Campaign for December 20th general election marked by an end to bi-party system

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: he is underlining his economic credentials as he seeks re-election. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: he is underlining his economic credentials as he seeks re-election. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

 

The campaign for Spain’s general election begins on Friday, with four parties vying for victory on December 20th in the most open contest of the country’s democratic era.

The emergence of two new forces, Ciudadanos and Podemos, has fragmented a political landscape that has been dominated for over three decades by the governing conservative Popular Party (PP) and the socialists. After the election, no single party is likely to be able to govern alone – an unusual situation for Spain.

“For the first time in 35 years, it is clear that the bi-party system is dead in this country,” Miguel Urbán, a member of the European Parliament for Podemos, told The Irish Times.

New forces

The PP, Ciudadanos and the socialists are in a virtual tie on 23 points, according to a poll published on Sunday by Metroscopia, which had Podemos trailing on 17 per cent. A poll published on Thursday by the CIS National Research Centre, meanwhile, showed the PP leading the socialists comfortably, followed closely by Ciudadanos and Podemos. An estimated quarter of voters are still undecided.

As he seeks re-election, prime minister Mariano Rajoy has been underlining his economic credentials. When he took power in late 2011, Spain was deep in crisis as a collapsed property bubble plunged it into recession. The country is growing again and the jobless rate falling, after years of austerity.

“Spain is growing faster than any country in Europe,” Rajoy told supporters in the city of Melilla, hours before the campaign officially began. “You have to be prepared and experienced to be in government,” he added, in a comment seen as a criticism of the left-leaning Podemos and the centrist Ciudadanos, neither of which yet has representatives in congress.

Recovery signs

European Commission

However, many Spaniards are not buying the government’s message of recovery, pointing to the poor quality of jobs being created. If the PP does win, it will almost certainly need the backing of another party – Ciudadanos the most likely candidate – to govern.

“Spain needs a change, that means telling the old left and the old right that the new centre can win the elections,” Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said on Thursday, during a visit to congress.