Spain 2011

Legislative elections were held in Spain on November 20, 2011. All 350 members of the Congress of Deputies and 208 out of 266 members of the Senate were up for reelection in these snap elections. I had covered the details of this election, but also some very extensive details about Spanish history since the Restoration, the political parties in contention, the political issues and the regions of Spain in some 100 pages (!) in my Guide to the 2011 Spanish Election. I wish to apologize to those who had hoped to follow my liveblog. Apparently it never worked for the readers, and I didn’t find that out until it was all said and done. Technology never works these days.

Spain has been one of the European countries hit the hardest by the European debt crisis and the world recession. Its unemployment rate, 21.5%, is the highest in the EU, and 4.9 million people are out of work. Nearly half of those under 30 are unemployed. The logistics of the debt crisis in Spain are made all the more difficult in a decentralized country like Spain, where seventeen autonomous communities account for 40% of total spending and have run up some huge debts (€121.4 billion in total) and whose combined deficit rose to 2.8% of the country’s GDP last year (while the central government’s deficit fell from 11 to 9% of the GDP). Spain is widely considered as one of the most vulnerable countries in this European debt crisis, alongside Greece and Italy, and could be one of the next “dominoes” to fall in case things get even worse. Spain’s Socialist government, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero since 2004, has taken lots of heat over its initially sluggish response to the growing crisis and then suffered the brunt of popular discontent when it was compelled to implement very tough austerity deals including wage freezes for public employees and massive spending cuts. In the May 2011 regional elections, Zapatero’s governing Socialists (PSOE) suffered an historic trouncing at the expense of the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP). Zapatero himself was not running for reelection as President of the Government this year, being succeeded by his right-hand man and former Vice-President of the Government Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba faced Mariano Rajoy, the leader and candidate of the PP since 2004, when Rajoy failed in his bid to succeed his predecessor José María Aznar as President of the Government.

The Guide covers the details of Spain’s electoral system in more breadth. The 350 members of the lower house, the Congreso de los Diputados, are elected through d’Hondt closed list party-list proportional representation in Spain’s 50 provinces which have have between 2 (constitutionally-set minimum) and 36 seats. Theoretically, the threshold in each constituency is 3% but in practice in all but the largest constituencies (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia etc) the threshold is much higher – up to 25% in three-member constituencies. Furthermore, the electoral system over-represents smaller provinces: there were only 38,685 voters per deputy in Soria back in 2008, but in Barcelona there were 128,392 voters per deputy that same year. The high threshold in most provinces penalizes national third-parties whose base is more homogeneously spread throughout the country, and has resulted in a two-party system around the PSOE and PP where regionalist parties in Euskadi and Catalonia are also advantaged by the electoral system. The 208 elected members of the upper house, the Senado, are elected through partial block voting in each province in peninsular Spain, which elects four senators. Ceuta and Melilla elect two members, the larger islands in the insular communities (Mallorca in the Balearics and Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the Canaries) elect three senators each while the smaller islands in the insular communities elect a single member each. In provinces with four senators, voters may vote up to three candidates. In those with two or three, for up to two. In those with one, for a single candidate. Voters vote for individual candidates (each party slate has three names in four-seaters) and those four winning the most votes are elected. This usually means that seats are split 3-1 between the winning slate and the runners-up. The remainder of seats are elected indirectly by the legislatures of the autonomous communities. Each autonomous community is entitled to one member plus one additional member for every million inhabitants. The electoral system and the Senate are both major political questions, and movements such as the indignados have demanded electoral reform with ideas such as open lists, regional constituencies, a single national constituency or a mixed German-type system (so, with an FPTP component) being some of the commonly proposed alternatives to the current system.

You can find more about the electoral campaign in the Guide, but the result of a low-intensity campaign which ultimately never impassioned voters and which was marked throughout by certainty over the result was a dip in turnout from 73.85% to 71.69%. Blank votes increased from 1.11% to 1.37% and null votes from 0.69% to 1.29%.

PP 44.62% (+4.68%) winning 186 seats (+32)*
PSOE 28.73% (-15.14%) winning 110 seats (-59)
CiU 4.17% (+1.14%) winning 16 seats (+6)
IU-LV 6.92% (+3.15%) winning 11 seats (+9)*
Amaiur 1.37% (+1.37%) winning 7 seats (+7)*
UPyD 4.69% (+3.5%) winning 5 seats (+4)
EAJ-PNV 1.33% (+0.14%) winning 5 seats (-1)
ERC 1.05% (-0.11%) winning 3 seats (nc)
BNG 0.75% (-0.08%) winning 2 seats (nc)
CC-NCa-PNC 0.59% (-0.09%) winning 2 seats (nc)*
Compromís 0.51% (+0.39%) winning 1 seat (+1)
FAC 0.4% (+0.4%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Geroa Bai 0.17% (-0.07%) winning 1 seat (nc)

In the Senate:

PP 136 seats (+35)*
PSOE 48 seats (-40)
CiU 9 seats (+5)
PSC-ICV-EUiA 7 seats (-5)*
EAJ-PNV 4 seats (+2)
Amaiur 3 seats (+3)
CC 1 seat (nc)

* PP includes 1 UPN deputy; 3 PAR senators 2 UPN senators
* IU includes 2 ICV, 1 CHA and 1 EUiA
* Amaiur includes independents (5 deputies and 2 senators), EA (1 deputy and 1 senator) and Aralar (1 deputy)
* CC-NCa includes CC (1 deputy), NCa (1 deputy) and AHI (1 senator)

Please note that results are calculated by the Spanish government based on valid votes, which includes blank votes – envelopes containing no party ballot. In my Guide, I calculated results based on the total number of candidate votes, including solely votes cast directly for a party list. I have not calculated results on this basis for this election.

Without any surprise, the PP has won an historic majority. It has won its highest vote share and seat count in its history. The PP’s absolute majority provides Spain and the tumultuous financial markets with the ‘stable government’ they had longed for. Mariano Rajoy, in good part by chance, will finally become President of the Government. For the PP and Rajoy, now comes the hard part. It inherits a very bleak economic record: record-high unemployment, youth disillusion with the lack of job opportunities, popular discontent over austerity measures and the political system, a big deficit and rising debt, autonomous communities up in debt to their necks and some autonomous communities unwilling to cut as much as the central government would like them to do. During the campaign, the PP promised basically nothing and in fact Rajoy declined to reveal his full programme during a televised debate with Rubalcaba. The PP talked in some very broad terms about fighting the crisis, fighting unemployment and summed up its policies to catchphrases like ­”modernization”, “growth”, “competitiveness”, “opportunities”, “reform” and above all the good ol’ c-word: change. Its slogan was “súmate al cambio” (join the change). Despite its sixth plank saying “we will carry out an austerity plan that will commit all the levels of government” this did not keep the PP, during the campaign, from attacking the PSOE on the front of spending cuts.

Whatever the PP said during the campaign, it is quite certain that they will undertake a program of austerity – they have said so themselves – but what form it will take remains to be seen. If you believe their program, it will mostly be in the form of labour market liberalization, business tax cuts, and public sector reform on the bases of rationalization, transparency and efficiency. They have, in their program, promised to uphold the welfare state and have said that health and education are their ‘priorities’. They have also promised tax cuts and other tax-incentive/goodies as some sort of counterbalance to austerity. Whether they follow through on this in practice remains to be seen, but given what austerity means in practice and the realities of the Spanish economy, I wouldn’t hold out hope.

While the PP’s victory is quite phenomenal in most regards, the election was more of a defeat of the PSOE than a victory of the PP. Certainly in terms of governance, the PP now has a commanding majority in Parliament and quasi-universal control over local government in most regions (only 5 out of 17 regions are not governed by the PP or its allies, and it controls the vast majority of provincial capitals) – an ideal situation similar to that of the PSOE in 1982-1983. But despite the PP’s landslide this year, its vote share actually only increased by 4.7% while the PSOE’s vote declined by a full 15 percentage points. Something which indicates the polarized nature of Spanish politics (especially given how the PP is the most polarizing party), but also the comparatively little embrace the PP received. Its victory this year is more a win by default, as the main opposition party which has played its cards pretty well and was reassuring during the campaign, than any widespread popular movement or embrace of the PP’s policies. The dip in turnout this year is indicative of this feeling of political apathy, and it serves to set it apart from the PSOE’s landslide defeat of an incumbent government in 1982 where there was a real popular embrace of the party as an inspiring vehicle of change and behind a charismatic young leader. No such emotions this year – voters were not very interested by the campaign, and Rajoy as a person retains the image of uncharismatic politico/Galician tax collector. It is almost resignation to a result known long in advance and behind a party which isn’t that bad but which isn’t inspiring any political mania.

The election is really a defeat for the PSOE more than anything. The governing party has suffered an unprecedented thumping, losing 15% and nearly 60 seats in Congress. With such a result, the PSOE has won the worst result in its recent history – falling below the 125 seats of the 2000 Aznarslide and the 118 seats it had won in the first free elections in 1977. In 1977, Spain’s political system was not yet constructed along stable lines and you had a lot of lingering left-wing votes in parties such as the PSP which would be eaten up by the PSOE. There is little way to spin it: it was a catastrophically bad result for the PSOE. In large part, the PSOE was the victim of the economic crisis. It had been criticized for its sluggish handling of the crisis when it first hit in late 2008 and then received the bulk of popular discontent over tough austerity measures it had been compelled to implement. These austerity measures included public sector wage freezes, a VAT hike, cuts in public spending, cuts in welfare allocations, pension reform and labour law liberalization. These measures, implemented by a left-wing party, really hit the core of the PSOE’s traditional electorate. A lot of traditional Socialist voters found themselves alienated from their traditional party and, in this election like in May, either did not turn out or voted for other parties either on the left (IU), centre (UPyD and regionalists) or the right (PP). On 20-N, the PSOE was really shrunk to its rock-solid core electorate. The party’s attempts to distance the campaign from the crisis and unemployment to issues where it is nominally stronger: social spending, welfare and so forth, failed. There was certainly no escaping the crisis this year and the PSOE’s desperate attempts to run on a traditional left-wing platform concerned with social issues could not work out. Rubalcaba put up a good fight, but ultimately he was doomed before it even started. It was not as much a defeat for him as a person rather than a defeat for the PSOE as a whole. Perhaps if the PSOE had been perceived as a “strong” government with a more concerted approach to the economic crisis (analysts have described Artur Mas’ Generalitat as a ‘strong government’, for example) rather than perceived as being wobbling all over the place it could have done a bit better. In a normal election, all things equal, it would probably not have been all that hard for Rubalcaba to defeat Rajoy, but this was not a normal election.

What was surprising was that there was not even a dead cat bounce for the PSOE in the results. A lot of people, myself included, had thought that the PSOE could slightly overperform expectations and receive a tiny boost from last-minute strategic voting for people wary of a PP majority or hesitating left-wingers who, in the past, had often tended to break at the last minute for the PSOE. No such thing this year. In fact, as the PP majority was pretty much a certainty, it could have depressed some PSOE voters from voting and allowed other voters to vote more “freely” – the small parties and regionalists: IU, UPyD, CiU, PNV and Amaiur all did a bit or quite a bit better than what was expected. Even some soft right-wingers might have taken the freedom to vote for parties such as UPyD as the PP’s majority looked so set in stone before the vote.

Only the provinces of Sevilla and Barcelona have remained loyal to the PSOE. In Sevilla, Felipe González’s former cabinet minister Alfonso Guerra won another successive victory at the helm of the PSOE’s list, constantly reelected since the first elections in 1977. But Jaén broke its unbroken streak of voting PSOE in every single election since democracy and voted PP. Even Huelva, another solidly loyal Socialist province, narrowly voted PP.

The PSOE must now reconstruct itself. A regular congress will be held in February, in which Zapatero will step down as official leader of the party. Who will replace him, and whether Rubalcaba will replace him, remains up in the air. The names of Defense Minister Carme Chacón, the President of the Congress José Bono, MEP Juan Fernándo López Aguilar, the secretary-general of the congressional caucus Eduardo Madina and Basque lehendakari Patxi López are commonly cited as potential successors. The PSOE starts from far, but perhaps its fight back will be easier than the one it faced in 2000. It is the opposition – the largest opposition force by far – to a government which faces an extremely tough economic situation and which will need to implement sour-tasting medicine quickly. In 2000, it faced a popular government which rode the wave of economic prosperity and growth with only little bumps until the Madrid bombings. No such luck for the PP government this year. The PSOE is discredited for the time being, but it is hard to see the discredit lasting very long when the government starts being compelled to introduce sour-tasting economic medicine. We are already seeing the PS in next-door Portugal start fighting back after losing this summer’s elections in a landslide to the opposition conservatives. More than any “right-wing shift” in Europe with the economic crisis (a flawed theory brought up by the Canadian paper The Globe and Mail) there is pretty much a strong anti-incumbent mood in those countries which are suffering from the economic crisis or whose governments have implemented unpopular policies in relation to the economic crisis (Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Germany, the UK etc). I expect a similar situation to emerge in Spain. Therein lies the silver lining for PSOE supporters.

IU and UPyD, Spain’s two main national-level third parties, had a good night. IU won its best result since 1996 and really its first truly good results in a long time. With 11 seats and 7%, it roars back from the brink of extinction where it laid after the 2008 election (where it won only 2 seats). It performed strongly in its traditional strongholds of Madrid (8%), Catalonia (8.1%), Andalusia (8.3%) and Asturias (13.3%) but also Aragon where, in coalition with the left-nationalist CHA, it won 10.5% and one seat (for CHA). There is, however, the very serious risk that, like in the 1990s, IU’s new voters are left-wing voters parking their votes with IU in protest against the PSOE and who will be ready to bolt from IU whenever the PSOE appears viable again – that what was happened in 2000 and 2004. UPyD also did surprisingly well, winning a very strong 4.7% and 5 seats – up from just 1.2% and 1 seat in 2008. It has been an unexpectedly major beneficiary of the PSOE’s collapse, but also popularity with some centre-right voters. It won its best result (10.3% and 4 seats) in Madrid but also won one seat in Valencia in the person of Toni Cantó, a popular actor.

In Catalonia, CiU defied all expectations and shocked observers by outpolling the traditionally hegemonic PSC for the first time in a general election. The CiU, which had not been expected to perform particularly spectacularly, did quite spectacularly with 29.4% and 16 seats – the best showing since 1996 – against 26.6% and 14 seats for the PSC. Consider that only three years ago the PSC had won 46%… Outpolling the PSC in a domain (general elections) where it has usually been the dominant party is quite a feat for the party and a major boost for the governing party in Catalonia. It is also a particularly big blow to Carme Chacón, who was a bit the PSC’s top candidate as the PSC top candidate in Barcelona. We are quite a way away from the 38% the CiU won in last year’s regional elections but the CiU always performs way better in regional elections anyhow. The ERC, the other main referent of Catalan nationalism, won 7.1% (down a bit from 7.8%) but managed to keep its 3 seats. It could be in the process of slowing down its pretty bad decline started around the time of the Catalan statute’s ratification in 2006. Its leaders have patted themselves on the back for the success of the party’s rebuilding process which began following the quasi-rout of the 2010 regional election.

The PP will be a bit let down by its ultimately unimpressive performance in Catalonia. Sure, 20.7% and 11 seats is above their 2008 results (16.4% and 8 seats) and it is their second best result after 2000 (23%). The PPC was probably hoping to place second ahead of CiU as some polls had indicated, and such a result would have been an historic success for the españolista right in Catalonia. Ultimately, it will need to settle for a somewhat distant third. As in 2010 and May 2011, the PPC’s success came on the heels not of fellow right-wingers who would otherwise vote CiU but rather non-Catalanist discontent PSC voters. Again, as in 2010 and May, the PPC won its best results and most impressive gains in the traditionally heavily Socialist working-class hinterland of Barcelona: Badalona, L’Hospitalet and so forth. In 2010, a campaign particularly focused on criminality and immigration had been behind the PPC’s success in those historic strongholds of the PSC. Indeed, the PPC, unlike any other regional branch of the PP, is particularly concerned about checking the rise of the only viable far-right movement in the country, the PxC – which won 1.7% of the vote in Catalonia.

The other major news of this election was Amaiur’s success. Amaiur is the abertzale left (Basque nationalist left) coalition founded in succession of Bildu, a similar coalition which had done well in May’s local elections. Amaiur includes EA, abertzale independents and Aralar. With 7 seats, it is the biggest party in “Euskal Herria” (CAPV+Navarre). While in Euskadi, in terms of votes, it is behind the PNV (24.1% vs. 27.4%), by the workings of the electoral system it won 6 seats in Euskadi to the PNV’s 5. In Navarre, with 14.9%, Amaiur won one seat. But what was more surprising in Navarre was Geroa Bai’s ability to hold it seat with 12.8% of the vote. Geroa Bai is the makeshift electoral alliance backed by the PNV (locally worthless in Navarre) and led around Uxue Barkos, the independent moderate deputy elected for the nationalist coalition NaBai in 2008. The combined 27.7% of the two Basque nationalist forces in Navarre is far superior to NaBai’s 18.4% and is certainly a record high for Basque nationalists in general elections in Navarre.

The results in Euskadi are at odds with those in the rest of Spain. The PNV, with 27.42% and 5 seats, a result slightly above its 27.11% result in 2008 (but one seat less) emerged on top, followed by Amaiur with 24.12% and 6 seats. The PSE-EE, which had won a crucial victory in 2008 with 38%, collapsed to a mere 21.5%. The PP was equally shunned: it held its 3 seats, but won 17.8% – less than the already poor 18.5% it had won in 2008. A far cry from the PP’s record of 29% in 2000. The real victor in Euskadi is Basque nationalism, with a combined strength of 51.5% – a record high since the late 80s.

Just like in the 1998 Basque regional elections, the abertzale left has benefited from the final cessation of ‘hostilities’ with ETA. Amaiur, with ETA dead, has become an even less polarizing and even more attractive political option for nationalists and other left-wingers. But the rebirth of Basque nationalism, which had been quite seriously shaken in 2008 and 2009 (when the PNV lost control of the CAPV’s regional government for the first time in history), is more than just that. Part of it probably comes from a rebuke of the PSE-PP pact which gave Patxi López the Ajuria Enea in 2009, but as some Spanish analysts have suggested, it could be a rebirth of nationalism as an attractive political and institutional option in one of Spain’s most affluent regions during one of the worst economic crises in recent Spanish history. Amaiur’s result is another big success for the abertzale left, which comes on the heels of Bildu’s success in May.

In detail, the Basque vote was a different story depending on the province. In Biscay, the birthplace and impregnable fiefdom of the PNV, the jeltzales won 32.62% (31% in 2008) against 21.4% for the PSE and 19.2% for Amaiur. In Gipuzkoa, the most nationalist and traditional base of the abertzale, Amaiur dominated the field with 34.8% against 22.4% (1 seat) for the PNV (down from 23.8% and 2 seats in 2008) and 21% for the PSE (39% in 2008). In Álava, the least Basque of the Basque provinces, the PP won 27.2% (up from 26.5%) against 23% for the PSE and some 19% apiece for the PNV and Amaiur. In terms of party politics, the PNV’s strong showing in Biscay strengthens the position of the moderate Josu Erkoreka for lehendakari in 2013, while the anemic showings in both Gipuzkoa and Álava weakens the weight of these federations but most notably that of Joseba Egibar, the more radical PNV leader in Gipuzkoa. In the long term, it will be worth watching whether the PNV continues its worrying (for them) isolation back into Biscay while losing Gipuzkoa and Álava – a trend seen back in May as well.

Amaiur polled its new votes from non-voters: logically, turnout increased in Euskadi (another break from the rest of Spain) from 64% to 69.2% this year (and up 10% in the abertzale stronghold of Gipuzkoa). A good number of solid more radical abertzale or Batasuna voters had not voted in 2008 for lack of such an option. Similarly, blank votes (envelopes deposited in the ballot box without any party ballot inside) fell from 1.8% to 1.1%. It also won, logically, some votes from EB-B (the local IU) which, in Euskadi unlike in the rest of Spain, fell back from 4.5% to 3.7%. EB-B has always acted as some sort of prop-up for nationalists in Basque governments without being fully nationalist itself. But Amaiur’s success did not have all that much of a detrimental effect on the PNV. It certainly did pull some votes away from the PNV in those places, like Gipuzkoa and eastern Biscay, which are the most rural and ethnically Basque areas, but on the overall raw numbers both throughout the CAPV and the constituent provinces don’t show a strong link between Amaiur and the PNV’s results. Instead there seems to have been a significant growth in support for Basque nationalism which ended up being positive to both parties.

Certainly some PNV voters might have voted Amaiur in bigger numbers than raw data makes us presumes, because those loses were compensated for gains with more moderate 2008 Socialist voters. It happened, but to what extent it is hard to judge. Amaiur seems to have grown quite a bit on the heels of the PSE’s collapse. It makes sense: in 2008, the PSE, which has always had (especially after its defeat in the 2001 regional elections) some elements of soft-regionalism, was an attractive option for some left-wing nationalist voters either through anti-PP strategical considerations or approval of Zapatero’s softer policy (in the first term, initially) with ETA. It had won 39% in Gipuzkoa, the most nationalist province, and had performed quite well in places like Arrasate/Mondragón which are otherwise abertzale strongholds. This year, a combination of national conditions (the PSOE’s unpopularity, the certainty of a PP majority) and local conditions (the PSE’s pact with the PP in 2009) probably doomed any chances for PSE resistance with more nationalist Basque voters.

Amaiur as a major political actor (with its own parliamentary group: parties need 5 members to form a unique group) and one of the largest political forces in Euskal Herria, alongside Euskadi’s unique set of results (with the nationalist landslide) makes the next four years interesting in Euskadi – both in terms of regional politics looking to the 2013 regional elections – but also in terms of the PP’s interaction with Euskadi and the PNV-Amaiur. Amaiur will be shunned and stigmatized by the PP, and there is fear that, like in 2000-2004, there could be a fistfight between the central PP government and the nationalists – especially if the nationalists reconquer the Ajuria Enea in 2013. Rajoy has already made public his intention to repeal the fourth transitory clause from the Constitution (the clause which sets the procedure for the union of the CAPV and Navarre) and this symbolic move could be symbolic for a tense relationship between the Basque nationalists/PNV, which is increasingly nationalist in its rhetoric again, and the PP. In the same context, the relationship between the CiU government in Barcelona, which is taking some more stridently nationalist tones at time, and the new PP government in Madrid will be interesting to follow. It is unlikely to be as bad as any relationship between a Basque nationalist government in Euskadi and Rajoy, but with questions of spending cuts on both sides and Catalan demands for fiscal autonomy, things can be interesting.

Third parties in general now form the biggest caucus since the early 90s – a clear break away from the pattern of increased polarization, unchecked ever since 1996. Beyond the aforementioned ‘biggies’, the BNG and CC both held their two seats. In the BNG’s case, with 11.25%, it won about 0.25% less than what it had won in 2008. In CC, the big loses in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (from 29.2% and 2 seats to 19.8% and 1 seat) were compensated by gains in Las Palmas (from 6.1% to 11.3% and 1 seat) – gains made possible by the alliance with NCa, the left regionalist party which had crippled CC in Las Palmas. In the Valencian Community, the coalition of the left-nationalist CC with the greens (Equo) won 4.8% and 1 seat – from Valencia where it won 6%. In the Balearic Islands, a similar coalition between the local left-nationalists (PSM-EN) and Equo won 7.2% but could not conquer a seat. In Cantabria, Miguel Ángel Revilla’s attempt to win a seat for his PRC fell quite a bit short with only 12.5%, victim of a PP campaign linking him closely to Zapatero. In Asturias, however, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos’ governing FAC (a right-wing party founded by former Aznar cabinet minister Álvarez-Cascos for the purposes of his fistfight with the local PP), won 14.75% and one seat. It is a pretty nice result for them, though in Madrid the FAC won only 0.2% and totally failed to catch any voters from the PP’s hard-right. In Asturias, it cost the PP some 5-6% (it fell from 41.6% to 35.4%).

Equo, Spain’s nascent green party, ultimately failed to elect anyone on its one. In Madrid, where all of Equo’s chances laid, it managed a pretty poor 1.92% and fell short of a single seat. Nationally, it won just 0.88%. Equo had never been widely predicted to do well on its own outside the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands where it benefited from its alliance with the much stronger local nationalists, but it is still a pretty significant setback for the country’s nascent green movement and shows that there is still much work to be done on their behalf if Spain is ever to have a strong green party. The first task would be to find unity, given that even with Equo some local green movements supported IU, notably in the Valencian Community.

There was also a less noticed good night for the tiny parties. The green/animal rights PACMA won 0.4%, double what it had won in 2008. A party calling for the recognition of blank votes in the seat allocation won 0.4%. Some small parties on the hard-left did well, by their standards.

El Mundo has a nice interactive map of the results by municipality, and allows for comparison with demographic and economic variables pretty nicely. The most striking aspect is of the course the blue wave, which is really massive and only leaves out Euskadi, Catalonia and the remnants of the Spanish “Solid South”. The PSOE is basically relegated to a handful of its strongholds: the poor inland rural areas of Andalusia especially in the provinces of Huelva and Sevilla, a remaining handful of towns in Extremadura and Aragon, the rump of the old working-class mining areas in León (interestingly, the PSOE vote dropped by only a bit more than average – 16% in Zapatero’s native province) and Asturias (inflated because of the division of the right-wing vote), and the Socialist fief of La Gomera in the Canaries (by a small margin at that). The PP dominated by wide margins in the conservative strongholds of the Castiles, the Levante, Cantabria and Galicia but even Extremadura and the Canaries. It won its best results in its history in Andalusia (45.6%!), the Canaries (a huge 48%), Castile-La Mancha (55.8%), Extremadura (over 50% for the first time ever, a decimated PSOE at 37 %), Murcia (64.3% against 21% for the PSOE…), La Rioja, Ceuta, Melilla (66% in both North African enclaves) but also the Valencian Community (53%) despite the Caso Gürtel. In Galicia, the long-term trend away from the PP is likely to continue: with 52.5%, the PP’s performance is quite a bit below the 54% won in 2000.

Outside Euskal Herria and Asturias, the swing to the PP was really quite universal despite a few under-performances here and there, so finding links between unemployment rates and stronger PP performances is a bit tough – but all these regions save La Rioja which saw the best PP performances are those regions were unemployment is above the national average of 21.5%. The shocking victories in Andalusia but also the Canaries have something to do with the 30% unemployment rate in those regions. But conversely, voters in those regions with lower unemployment were not more ready to support the PSOE – proof that economic pessimism is not regionally concentrated. I wouldn’t necessarily link the two, but it is interesting that coincidentally (?) the two regions where the PP vote dropped since 2008 for ‘normal’ reasons (aka, not because of vote-splitting like in Asturias) – Euskadi and Navarre – have the two lowest unemployment rates in Spain (12.2% and 11.7%).

The victory in Andalusia was one of the most notable aspects of the PP’s electoral results. Andalusia is really the bedrock of the PSOE, where a lot of its national leaders hail from, where it has built up full institutional control and where it has maintained a loyal electoral clientele in ways, some say, reminiscent of patronage or clientelism. In this regards, the PP’s victory there on 20-N and earlier in May was really a major blow to the PSOE. Because of this, the March 2012 regional elections in Andalusia will be crucial for both the PP and PSOE. If the PP, despite having the weight of having been in government for a few months, wins the elections (even moreso if it wins a majority, like it would on present numbers) then it will be a crippling blow for the PSOE made all the more crippling by it being out of government nationally. If the PSOE manages to hold on, it would mean a general sigh of relief for the PSOE and a very encouraging boost for it. Nonetheless, José Antonio Griñán’s PSOE trailed Javier Arenas’ PP by nearly 15% (49-35) in the last poll for the regional elections.

In the Senatorial contests, the PP won a huge majority (65% of seats) – the largest majority ever achieved in fact (bigger even than the PSOE’s senate majority in 1982). No province voted differently in the Senate elections, and only one province – Tarragona – resulted in a 2-2 split between the top two parties rather than the usual 3-1 split. The PP won seats in all provinces but the 4 Catalan provinces and the two coastal Basque provinces, and won the three seats in all other provinces but Sevilla. In turn, the PSOE won only 48 seats – one in every four-seat province besides Gipuzkoa where it won none and Sevilla where it won three. The Senate-level only coalition in Catalonia between the PSC, ICV and EUiA (ERC left this year) won three seats in Barcelona, two in Tarragona and only one seat in Girona and Lleida. On the islands, the PSOE won its impregnable kingdom of La Gomera 44-36, but besides that it was limited to no seats in the other small islands and one seat in the three-seat islands. In El Hierro, the incumbent senator from AHI (an insular regionalist party allied with CC) was reelected.

The Guide will likely be updated, sometime, with this analysis, full results and perhaps further analysis if time permits.


Posted on November 23, 2011, in Basque Country, Catalonia, Spain. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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