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Will Spain’s election mean end to political gridlock?

media This poster shows Pablo Iglesias, the founder of Spanish political party Podemos. Photo: RFI Brasil

While the international media has been focused on Brexit, there is another European vote coming up this weekend. On Sunday, Spanish voters will go to the polls to vote in its second round of general elections in less than six months after they failed to form a government last December.

Audio report 24/06/2016 Listen

Last December, two new political parties appeared on the rosters in Spain’s parliamentary elections: leftwing Podemos, which was formed out of the anti-austerity movement that has been going on in Spain since around 2011, and Ciudadanos, a centre-right, neo-liberal party.

“Spain is technically a proportional parliamentary democracy but it looks almost like the United States or the United Kingdom because they’ve only had one leftist party and one right party for a very long time”, said Dr. Emmy Eklundh, a teaching fellow in Spanish and International politics at King’s College, London. “But both of these parties did really, really well. So, all of a sudden, there were four parties and none of them gained an outright majority.”

That meant that the parties had to form coalitions to govern. The negotiations lasted four months, leaving Spain in political paralysis as the parties tried to agree on a prime minister. In lieu of a decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the centre-right People's Party, stayed on as de facto leader. Finally, in early May, Spain's King Felipe signed a decree to dissolve parliament and hold a new round of elections on June 26.

But it isn’t clear if this new round of elections will actually clear things up.

“My gut is telling me that we are going to see a repeat of the last election,” said Dr Pablo Calderon Martinez, a Lecturer in Spanish at Aston University in the UK. “We are seeing a pretty equal split between left and right”.

In May, Podemos formed an alliance with the former communist party Izquierda Unida. The new coalition is called Unidos Podemos. Other than that development, Calderon Martinez says that he has seen no large shifts in Spain since December.

“I was in Madrid recently and I wouldn’t say that there’s been any increase in discontent with the political class. I mean, the political class already had a low standing as it was”, Calderon Martinez said. “The economy has been pretty much maintained. But I suspect this feeling of ambivalence could change if the political parties do no reach some sort of resolution relatively quickly.”

Eklundh of Kings College, on the other hand, thinks that the leftwing coalition, Unidos Podemos, is a significant development.

“Europe has been developing a strong conservative and rightwing trend over the past few years, so this strong leftist turn going on in Spain is quite different,” Eklundh said. “It’s an alternative to rightwing populism. If they do make gains, they’re likely to have a harsher stance on the EU and they are likely to resist a lot of these austerity measures that are being implemented”.

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