Elections In Spain: Pollsters Underestimate Conservative Support

Surprising pollsters, Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP), also called the People’s Party by some news agencies, won today’s general election in that country but has still fallen short of a parliamentary majority.

It remains to be seen if the PP victory can break the ongoing political deadlock in Spain, which is Europe’s fourth-largest economy.

The center-right PP under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy won 137 seats, up from 123 in the inconclusive December election, while the socialist PSOE finished in second place with 85 seats (down from 90). The PP needed 176 seats to control the 350-member parliament.

“We have won the elections, we demand the right to govern,” Rajoy declared at a victory rally in Madrid tonight.

Now Rajoy will be faced with the difficult task of forming a coalition government to once again avoid a hung parliament. “Spain’s electorate, angry about high unemployment and corruption, has expressed little appetite for a third round of voting. So most analysts are betting that a government will be formed, even though it could take painstaking negotiations and perhaps party leadership changes,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Pollsters predicted that the PP would lose seats and that Rajoy would be out of a job and that the new far-left, anti-austerity Unidos Podemos party would gain significant traction. In a disappointment to its supporters, Unidos Podemos wound up with the same number of seats, 71, as in December. Ciudadanos, a new center-right party, finished in a distant fourth place with 32 seats.

It’s uncertain how Brexit affected the vote, but some political observers in Spain claimed that the post-Brexit economic uncertainty prompted voters to gravitate toward the established parties on the left and the right.

“It was unclear whether Britain’s vote to leave the EU, which hit financial markets in indebted Spain particularly hard, led more people to vote for the conservative PP. However, the uncertainty and confusion sweeping Europe in the wake of Brexit will pressure politicians to reach a deal quickly,” Reuters observed.

According to the Financial Times, polling organizations were way off in the elections in Spain (as they were in Thursday’s Brexit vote).

“Spain’s pollsters had a dreadful night. Not only did they call the result utterly wrong in the weeks and months leading up to polling day, but even the exit polls released on Sunday evening were shockingly out of line with reality. They erred in three important ways: they underestimated the victory of the PP, underestimated the resilience of the Socialist party (PSOE) and overestimated the vote of the far-left Unidos Podemos party. What is less clear is whether the pollsters were wrong throughout, or whether there was a last-minute swing that made their previous forecasts redundant.”

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera indicated that he would promptly begin coalition talks with Prime Minister Rajoy. “While a PP-Ciudadanos alliance would still be seven seats off a majority, additional ones could be drummed up from regional parties,” the Guardian noted. Far less likely is a so-called grand coalition between the PP and the PSOE.

Rajoy could also attempt to form a minority government, which means he would attempt to run the country even lacking a majority in his corner in parliament.

“The pressure on the Socialists to let Rajoy at least form a minority government and get on with business will be enormous,” claimed one political analyst.


“The 36.5 million Spaniards eligible to vote returned to the polls after the 20 December election failed to yield a clear winner, tipping the country into six messy months of squabbling, sniping and horsetrading that have tested the patience of the Spanish public and exacerbated the personal and ideological differences between party leaders. More now looks set to follow,” the Guardian added.

Against this backdrop, in May, Spain’s’ King Felipe VI dissolved parliament and designated June 26 as election day.

In December, Spain’s contentious political climate made headlines when a 17-year-old male punched Prime Minister Rajoy in the head during a campaign visit to a town in northwestern Spain.

[Photo by Emilio Morenatti/AP]