Podemos and Ciudadanos Punish Spain’s Ruling Popular Party in Regional Elections
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Podemos and Ciudadanos Punish Spain’s Ruling Popular Party in Regional Elections
Quote:Spanish voters punished the governing Popular Party in regional and municipal elections, throwing significant support to two upstart parties that capitalized on anger over high unemployment, cuts in public spending and corruption.

Near-complete returns showed that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative party was assured of retaining control of only three of the 13 regions that elected parliaments Sunday. That is a reversal of the party’s dominance in 2011, when it won in 10 regions, eight with absolute majorities.

Although it gathered the most votes nationwide, the Popular Party could be hard-pressed to form functional governments in many former strongholds, including the city of Madrid, without support from smaller parties.

“It’s a brutal wake-up call from Spanish society to a party that has enjoyed a hegemony in parts of this country,” said Emilio Sáenz-Francés, professor of history and international relations at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.

He said the vote would usher in a new era in Spanish politics, obliging humbled establishment parties to resort to horse-trading and coalition-building with rivals to ensure governability.

In a possible foretaste of national balloting late this year, in which Mr. Rajoy is seeking a second term, his party’s share of the nationwide vote fell 10 percentage points from its 37% in local and regional elections four years ago. Voters moved to two upstart parties, the leftist Podemos and the center-right Ciudadanos.

Europe’s recession and debt crisis of recent years also have helped to upend established ruling parties in Italy and Greece. Greece’s election in January brought to power a leftist party, Syriza, that closely resembles Podemos in Spain. Podemos grew out of a popular movement known as the indignados—the indignant ones—that filled central Madrid’s public squares in 2011 in a protest against government-mandated austerity.

The woes of Mr. Rajoy’s party were typified in Madrid, where it has governed for 26 years and ran one of its most experienced politicians, former cabinet minister Esperanza Aguirre, for mayor. Her slate got just one city council seat more than that of her main opponent, Manuela Carmena, a 71-year-old political novice who led a leftist coalition backed by Podemos. Ms. Aguirre will need backing from minority parties to assume office and could be denied if Podemos unites with other leftist parties against her.

The Popular Party wasn’t the only establishment party to suffer voters’ anger. The Socialist Party, which together with its conservative rival has dominated Spanish politics for 33 years, saw its share of the nationwide vote decline two percentage points to 25%.

In the wealthy Catalonia region, the incumbent candidate of the long-dominant regional coalition, Convergence and Union, lost the mayor’s race in Barcelona to housing activist Ada Colau, another political outsider backed by Podemos. Ms. Colau, 41 years old, is one of the founders of the Platform for Mortgage Victims, an advocacy group that stages flash protests to try to block evictions of people who can’t pay their mortgages. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes since Spain’s real-estate bubble popped in 2008.

Like the Popular Party, Convergence and Union has been buffeted by corruption scandals and complaints about its economic austerity policies.

Ms. Colau’s election could be a blow to Convergence and Union’s push to win Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Ms. Colau has said that Catalonia has the right to self-determination, but she opposes a unilateral declaration of independence.

“She’s been calculatedly ambiguous about independence,” said Carmen Navarro, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid. “But her main message has been nationalism isn’t the fundamental issue for Barcelona, and that people face daily problems there that are more important.”

Sunday’s turnout was up slightly from the 2011 election, but was significantly higher in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities.

Voters elected parliaments in 13 of the country’s 17 regions as well as municipal councils and mayors in more than 8,000 towns and cities.

Stumping for his Popular Party, Mr. Rajoy had highlighted the gradual recovery of Spain’s economy, which is projected to grow faster this year than any other major eurozone economy. He also has said that his party’s experience is an essential stabilizing force at a time of uncertainty, caused by economic hardship and the Catalan independence push.

“We are the party for tough times,” Mr. Rajoy said last week. He added that the Popular Party wasn’t “born 15 minutes ago on a talk show or in a television studio,” a slap at Podemos, which was launched last year by a group of telegenic leftist intellectuals who reject his government’s economic austerity measures.

But many voters weren’t buying his message. The recovery has left many Spaniards mired in debt and nearly a quarter of the workforce unemployed. Corruption investigations have targeted hundreds of politicians from his party and the Socialists, who governed at the time the recession began.

“The abuses from the political establishment have become so great it’s time to support a movement that can regenerate Spanish politics,” said Elena Cabezali, a retired history teacher, who voted for Podemos.

Returns from Sunday’s vote indicated that Mr. Rajoy’s party was assured of holding on to power only in Castilla Leon, Murcia and La Rioja.

It lost to the Socialists again in Asturias and to regional parties in Navarre and the Canary Islands. Of the 10 regions it won in 2011, it was trailing the Socialists in Extremadura and leading only narrowly in six others—Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia, Cantabria, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and the wider Madrid region that encompasses the capital.

It won none of those six regions outright; its winning tally in each fell short of the combined votes for the Socialists and Podemos, making the Popular Party vulnerable to defeat if its two rivals agree to form a leftist governing alliance.

The growing fragmentation of the Spanish electorate has worried some establishment politicians. Former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe González recently fretted that Spain’s party system could become as unwieldy as Italy’s, but “we’ll be without Italians to manage it.”

In the northeast region of Aragon, for example, the Popular Party was winning 21 of the regional parliament’s 67 seats. The Socialists were winning 18 and Podemos 14.

The Socialists and Podemos have been reluctant to commit to a governing alliance in any region, but their leaders haven’t ruled one out.

Hypothetical general election outcomes for later this year:

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2015 May 25 12:03
Panic, I'm not Germanic


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RE: Podemos and Ciudadanos Punish Spain’s Ruling Popular Party in Regional Elections
Podemos and Ciudadanos will both get a far larger share in parliament. They both barely put any effort in these Regional Elections compared to PP/PSOE; their primary goal has always been the General Elections and this is also reflected in polls.

“I'm an economist. I've even got a PhD in Economics. Yet, I'm a good person, I swear!” - Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador
2015 May 25 14:08
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