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An Idiot's Guide To The Spanish Elections

Por: | 22 de enero de 2016


One month ago on the 20th December, Spain held, arguably their most interesting elections since the post Franco elections in 1977. Then as now, four major parties hoped to have a say in an uncertain political landscape.For decades, Spain’s two major parties had been the only game in town. Those who leaned to the right of the political spectrum voted PP, and those who leaned to the left voted PSOE. Anything else was that most pernicious of crimes; the wasted vote.

This year it was different; there were two new games in town. Podemos, a party unashamedly on the left, led by the endlessly energetic Pablo Iglesias. A self-defined Marxist with a knack for populism, a soft spot for Game of Thrones and, perhaps most famously, a terrible ponytail.

And Ciudanos a party whose supporters tend to be conservatives that approve of the policies of the PP but have grown weary of the PP’s steady drip of corruption scandals. The leader Albert Rivera, occasionally resembles a politibot created for the express purpose of leading a political party. He is young, clean cut, good looking, boasts a head of extremely presidential hair and is, no doubt, an expert at kissing babies.

So what has changed? What has allowed these political parties to become, in political terms: “overnight successes”. Spain is not the only country experiencing political upheaval, all across Europe new parties are challenging the status quo and getting results. To understand the phenomenon, it is instructive to have a look at recent events Greece where Syriza, another upstart party, swept to power in January 2015. Coming within two seats of an absolute majority. Syriza were the purest manifestation of a Europe wide dissatisfaction with the gradual transfer of parliamentary power to the EU.

With parliaments ever more limited in their actions, differences between political parties have lessened and the idea that faceless bureaucrats are taking the real decisions has taken hold. Syriza swept to power on the back of a promise to kick the hated Troika out of Greece. The resulting omnishambles did Podemos no favours as the PP were able to make a lot of hay from the Spanish electorate’s fears of Spain becoming the new Greece.

However, it also shone a huge spotlight on the power that government have signed away. Syriza were ultimately helpless to carry out their election promises despite a huge mandate from the people. People unhappy with this situation across Europe are increasingly turning to parties on the left and right, that would have been seen as too extreme to be electable in the very recent past.

 This graph shows the evolution of voting patterns over the course of the last three elections:


The circles represent different regions in Spain, the larger the circle the larger the amount of voters in that region.The vertical axis shows the winners percentage of the vote. The change over the course of the three most recent elections is dramatic, the winner’s percentage of the vote has steadily fallen in the last two elections. This clearly reflects a growing plurality in the vote, which is only going to be good for new parties.

The horizontal axis shows the margin of victory as a percent of the second placed party’s share. Essentially how close the second placed party was to winning. The closer to zero the smaller the margin of victory. The large concentration on the left of the graph tells its own story.

Effectively, Spain’s political parties are winning their seats with ever smaller percentages of the vote and margins of victory. In short, Spanish politics is becoming increasingly volatile. It remains to be seen if the parties can come to an accord and avoid a second set of elections. The recent election of the PSOE’s Patxi López as the president of congress, shows that deals are being done in the corridors of power.

But if Spanish politics continues on its current trajectory the next general election, be it in one month or four years, looks to be the most interesting still. With the potential to definitively prove Rajoy wrong, with his dismissal of Podemos and Ciudanos as political flashes in the pan.

Hay 3 Comentarios

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Keep dreaming Rondalla. That, and wishful oversimplifications, is probably what you're best at.

A most interesting and insightful article, provided, of course, that one completely forgets about the existence of the Basque Country + Navarra in the North, and of Catalonia. Maybe you could slightly amend the title to something like "An Idiot's Guide to Castilian Spain's Elections". Well, maybe, after all, Basques and Catalans shall soon go their own way..... Any suggestions regarding a noun or an expression to define or describe "The Rest of Spain" without Catalonia and without the Basque Country + Navarra??

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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