Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, known for his audacity and political survival skills, has taken a significant risk by calling for snap general elections on July 23. This unexpected decision follows his party’s substantial losses in the regional and local elections held in May. While polls consistently indicate that the conservative Partido Popular (PP) is poised to win comfortably, they might need to form a coalition with the far-right party Vox to secure a strong parliamentary majority. Despite the challenges, supporters argue that calling early elections was a better option than waiting until November. This article delves into the motivations behind Sánchez’s gamble and analyzes the potential outcomes.
Sánchez’s move to call for national elections was an implicit acknowledgment of the Socialists’ defeat in the May polls and a preemptive measure to avoid a worse situation by November. By doing so, he averted the right-wing’s persistent demand for early elections, undermining their claims of an illegitimate government. The decision has garnered support from voters and politicians on the Spanish left who believe it was a wise move.
Some argue that Sánchez’s decision to call for early elections was prompted by the regional vote defeat and the potential dire consequences of waiting until November. Continuing in power until November could have provided certain advantages, such as Spain’s six-month presidency of the Council of Europe from July 1 and access to EU funding. It would have also allowed different regions and cities to experience the implications of a joint Vox-PP administration. However, Sánchez managed to avoid internal divisions within his party and compelled his hard-left allies to unite swiftly under one banner. Moreover, he sidestepped the possibility of even worse electoral results.
Another hidden motive for Sánchez’s July election is the ongoing power-sharing negotiations between the PP and Vox after the regional elections. The frequent discussions about an alliance with the hard right have motivated voters like Jacinto Vidarte to consider voting for Sánchez. In constituencies like his, where three MPs are elected, strategic voting might be necessary to prevent Vox from obtaining the third seat. This reflects the urgency among left-wing supporters to halt the right’s rise to power.
Nonetheless, opinion polls consistently suggest a likely defeat for the Socialists, casting doubt on the effectiveness of tactical voting. The conservative and ultraconservative factions, along with influential right-leaning media outlets and businesses, have been critical of Sánchez’s measures, such as pro-feminist and LGBTQ+ laws, labor rights, and the minimum wage. These attacks have tarnished Sánchez’s image, and the progressive legislative actions of the Socialist government have not resonated deeply with liberal-minded voters. The disconnect between the government’s feminist initiatives and the lack of corresponding support from women who participate in Women’s Day protests raises questions about the electoral impact.
For Pedro Sánchez, these upcoming general elections represent a make-or-break moment in his political career. In Spain, politicians rarely outlast their defeats, and losing power often leads to resignations and the end of their political trajectory. Even Felipe González, who increased his share of the vote in 1996 but lost the government to Aznar, had to step down. In this context, Sánchez’s decision to call for early elections signifies the high stakes involved, as there are no second chances for politicians at the top echelons of Spanish politics.
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