A changing order in Spain after elections in Andalusia

Upheaval not quite on a par with Greece

Neither the old guard nor the new wave of Spanish politics has cause for complacency after last Sunday's elections to the autonomous government of Andalusia. The results show that the boundaries of Spain's political map are indeed shifting in ways hard to imagine even a year ago. But Spain is not Greece. So these shifts do not – as yet – match the expectations for an electoral earthquake created by recent opinion polls, which place the radical leftist newcomers Podemos ahead of both of Spain's established parties nationally.

Andalusia was always unlikely to reflect any new national pattern clearly. Its painful history of oppressive landlordism has bred exceptionally deep loyalties to the Socialist Party (PSOE). Its clientelist welfare networks have rescued many from abject rural poverty, and kept the PSOE in power there since 1980. The same networks, however, have bred very serious corruption allegations, which have landed several of the PSOE's Andalusian "barons" in the courts. The resultant instability forced the PSOE's current Andalusian first minister, Susana Díaz, to call early elections after her coalition with the former communists of Izquierda Unida (IU) had unravelled.

Against all odds, Díaz retained all 47 of the PSOE's seats, marking her out as a potential national party leader. But she remained three seats shy of an absolute majority. It was her erstwhile allies in IU who suffered most from the surge in support for Podemos, which took 15 seats, while IU fell from 12 to five. Surprisingly, Podemos also clearly took a significant slice of the electorate from the pro-austerity Partido Popular (PP), its arch-enemies on the right, currently in government in Madrid. This suggests that the chronic corruption scandals involving the PP have spurred some supporters to leap to the far left. More predictably, another new party, the conservative Ciudadanos took nine PP seats. The latter plunged from 50 deputies to 33, leaving its leadership in disarray. The old Spanish order is changing, but the precise shape of the new one is still hard to discern.