A large Spanish home improvement store sells a doormat with the text “Bienvenido a la república independiente de mi casa”. Welcome to the independent republic of my house. It is a phrase that gives a perfect insight into the Spanish soul – especially after Sunday’s elections.
The political division in the country was never so great. Spain is falling apart in at least three respects. The extremes have gained in strength. The parliament was not so fragmented in forty years. And more and more regions nowadays send their own envoy to Madrid.
To start with the first: just like everywhere in Europe, there is an exodus going on from the political center. In Spain that happens on both left and right. The most eye-catching Sunday was the victory of the ultra-right party Vox, which became the third party in the country with 15 percent of the votes. The left-wing Podemos has lost in Sunday’s elections, but still has 13 percent of the votes. For 2015 there was hardly anything on the left side of the Social Democratic PSOE.
As a result, the largest party, in this case the PSOE with 28 percent of the votes, was not that small before. Party leader Pedro Sánchez had hoped that he would be the only logical prime minister after these elections. He dreamed of a minority government with support from Podemos. But now that Sánchez has lost a few seats, Podemos’ willingness to support such a minority government has probably diminished.
Moreover, unless he has a large coalition with Partido Popular leader Casado, Sanchez needs more coalition partners than before. A record of 16 parties will soon be sitting in parliament. What complicates the matter is that Spanish politics is complex. Just like in Belgium, where formation has already been going on for six months, there is not only talk of a left-right contradiction, but also of deep-rooted regional differences.
If you add up all the left-wing parties in Spain, they have a majority. The problem is: there are also Catalan and Basque parties among them. They don’t feel like helping PSOE leader Sánchez in the saddle. In fact, it is excellent for them if the central government loses its grip on the country. Their aversion to the “Spanish state” is greater than ever, now that a number of political leaders from Catalonia have been sentenced to long prison sentences for separatism.
And then there is another trend in Spain: more and more Spanish extraordinary people want their own parliamentarian. This spring, a regional party from the northern Cantabria region got its first seat. Now the eastern province of Teruel is storming parliament, with the “Teruel Exists” party – you may not have known it, but apparently the major Spanish parties either did not.
The lack of political cohesion is always slightly more threatening in Spain than in other countries. In the 1930s, during the Spanish civil war, the right and left fought a bloody battle. Even now, political divisions are being looked at with great concern in Spain.
El Mundo Today, the Spanish version of De Speld, wrote last week: “Vox promises the Spaniards that they will never have to vote again”. It was a good joke – still.