Spain is holding a snap general election on Sunday, July 23, that could see a far-right party enter the government for the first time in decades.
The election was called by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, a socialist, after his party suffered major losses in regional and local elections in May. His coalition partner, the leftist Podemos party, also saw its support dwindle.
Most polls predict that the center-right opposition Popular Party (PP) will win the most seats but fall short of an absolute majority in the 350-seat parliament. This means that the PP will likely have to form a coalition with the far-right Vox party, which has been gaining popularity with its anti-immigration, anti-feminist and anti-regionalist rhetoric.
Vox, which entered parliament for the first time in 2019, is expected to win about 35 to 40 seats, making it the third-largest party and a potential kingmaker for any right-wing government. Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, has vowed to defend Spain’s unity and sovereignty against separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country. He has also promised to crack down on illegal immigration, ban pro-independence parties and revoke some of the autonomous powers of the regions.
The rise of Vox has sparked fears among many Spaniards, especially in Catalonia, where a failed independence bid in 2017 triggered a political crisis and a crackdown by the central government. Vox has been accused of stoking hatred and intolerance with its divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.
Some analysts say that Sanchez’s decision to call a snap election was a risky move that could backfire. They argue that he may have underestimated the appeal of PP’s leader, Alberto Nuneez Feijoo, a moderate conservative who has presented himself as a pragmatic and competent alternative to Sanchez. Feijoo has also tried to distance himself from Vox, saying that he would prefer a coalition with the center-right Ciudadanos party, which has seen its support collapse.
However, others say that Sanchez may have calculated that a new election could give him a chance to regain some of the lost ground and prevent a right-wing takeover. They point out that Sanchez has implemented some progressive reforms during his tenure, such as legalizing euthanasia, raising the minimum wage and pardoning some of the jailed Catalan separatist leaders. He has also managed to steer Spain through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the country hard.
The election outcome is likely to be close and unpredictable, as Spain remains deeply polarized and fragmented along ideological, territorial and social lines. The final result may depend on voter turnout, which is expected to be lower than usual due to voter fatigue and summer holidays. The negotiations to form a new government could also take weeks or months, prolonging the political uncertainty and instability in Spain.