BARCELONA, SPAIN – JULY 23: A man votes at historical building of Universitat de Barcelona on July 23, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. Voters in Spain head to the polls on July 23 to cast their votes and elect Spain’s next government. (Photo by Javier Mostacero Carrera#1102751#51C ED/Getty Images)
Javier Mostacero Carrera | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Spain’s conservative party PP [Partido Popular] is on track to lead negotiations to form a new government in Madrid, exit polls have shown, suggesting this could be the end of the socialist rule of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
PP secured between 145 and 150 seats, followed by the incumbent socialist party PSOE with between 113 and 118 seats, according to initial exit polls published by RTVE. An absolute majority requires 176 seats.
In the absence of a clear majority for any of the two major parties, the focus is now heavily on who will be the third largest political force emerging from Sunday’s election. It is so far unclear if the far right party Vox came in third or fourth, given that exit polls put it neck-to-neck with the left-leaning Sumar party.
One of the biggest questions from this election is whether PP will formally join forces with Vox — potentially marking the first time that the far right would return to power since the 1975 dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Exit polls suggest that the right wing bloc could potentially have a working majority.
PP and Vox have previously joined forces to govern in three of the country’s regions, but might find it more complicated to work together at the national level.
Members of Alberto Feijóo’s conservative party have raised concerns regarding Vox’s anti-LGBT rights and anti-immigration policy. Vox has also been criticized by mainstream politicians for opposing abortion rights and denying climate change, among other measures.
The snap election was brought about by socialist PSOE’s strong defeat in regional and municipal polls in May. General elections were originally due at the end of this year.
The Sunday vote was the first to ever take place during the summer time. The extreme heat felt in different parts of the country in recent weeks may have shed light on climate policy ahead of the vote.
Pedro Sanchez has served as Spain’s prime minister since 2018. He has been criticized for pardoning politicians supporting regional independence. During his mandate, there have also been issues with the “only yes means yes” sexual consent law, which reduced the jail time of many convicted rapists through a loophole.
However, Sanchez’ economic record proved strong ahead of the vote. Spain’s economy experienced a growth rate above 5% in 2022 and is set to expand by about 1.5% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Inflation in Europe’s fourth-largest economy is also one of the lowest. In June, Spain became the first economy to report an inflation rate below 2% across the region, down since the historic highs recorded in 2022, according to the country’s economy ministry. Political experts have nevertheless said the Sunday vote was more heavily focused on cultural and societal matters.