Spain’s conservative People’s Party (PP) has emerged as the winner of the general election held on Sunday but failed to secure enough seats to form a government on its own. The PP, led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo, obtained 136 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies, followed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, which won 122 seats.
The far-right Vox party came third with 33 seats, while the left-wing coalition Sumar, headed by Yolanda Díaz, got 31 seats. The rest of the seats were distributed among various regional and nationalist parties, such as the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Together for Catalonia (Junts) and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).
The election was the fifth in six years in Spain, and was triggered by Sánchez’s decision to dissolve parliament in April after failing to pass his budget. Sánchez had hoped to repeat his victory in the November 2019 election, when he formed a coalition government with Sumar, the first such nationwide government in Spain since the times of the Second Spanish Republic.
However, his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and plunged the country into a deep recession, eroded his popularity and boosted his rivals. The PP also capitalized on its success in the regional and local elections held in May, when it won in Madrid and other key areas.
Feijóo, who became PP leader in February 2022 after ousting Pablo Casado, presented himself as a moderate and pragmatic alternative to Sánchez’s “radical” and “divisive” policies. He pledged to lower taxes, create jobs, strengthen national unity and restore Spain’s international prestige.
However, Feijóo faces the difficult task to form a stable government, as he would need the support of Vox and other parties to reach an absolute majority of 176 seats. Vox, which has been open to back the PP in exchange for government participation and programmatic concessions, has a hardline stance on issues such as immigration, abortion, feminism and Catalan independence that could clash with Feijóo’s more centrist approach.
Another option for Feijóo would be to seek a grand coalition with the PSOE, but this would require a major shift in Spain’s polarized political landscape. Sánchez has already ruled out this possibility and said he would lead the opposition if he fails to form a government.
The election results reflect the fragmentation and volatility of Spain’s political system, which has been unable to produce clear majorities since 2015. The country faces multiple challenges, such as recovering from the pandemic, managing the EU recovery funds, dealing with the Catalan conflict and addressing social inequalities. The next weeks will be crucial to determine whether Spain can overcome its political deadlock and form a stable and effective government.