Spain's Shift To The Left
Following the May 24th municipal and regional elections, Saturday saw councils up and down the country being voted in. Few parties achieved an absolute majority resulting in pacts between the parties that have dominated Spanish politics since the mid 1980s, the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) – and emerging groups such as center-right Ciudadanos and anti-austerity Podemos were the key to where power lay.
Saturday saw an exciting new political era begin in Spain, with a clear directional change towards the left up and down the country. Deals between the Socialists (PSOE) and anti-austerity, anti-corruption party Podemos made this possible, and in provincial capitals where the center-right party Ciudadanos held the key to power, that party helped the right wing conservative Popular Party to power.
In some local councils, the PP had been in power for more than 20 years. But the majorities it once enjoyed were lost at the May 24 polls, where the two parties that have held power on a national scale since Spain’s return to democracy in the early 1980s – the PP and the PSOE – lost significant ground to emerging parties.
Podemos backed a number of groups running in the May elections, and had input in the councils formed in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, A Coruña and Cádiz, all of whom now have mayors that emerged from the social movements that began to take shape in the wake of the 15-M popular protest movement, born in the Spanish capital in 2011. The PP, meanwhile, has held onto 19 provincial capitals, and the PSOE will govern thanks to pacts in 17.
The most significant new changes include those in the cities of Madrid and Barcelona. In Madrid, ex-judge Manuela Carmena, head of the Podemos backed Ahora Madrid party, was voted in as mayor. Carmena fell short of an outright majority, but with the backing of the Socialists (PSOE) was able to attain power in the Spanish capital. The PP’s Esperanza Aguirre –won the most seats but also fell short of a majority and no other party was willing to form a pact with her in the bid to win power.
In Barcelona, the Catalan capital, former anti-evictions activist, Ada Colau was voted in as mayor thanks to pacts reached with other leftist groups, ejecting Xavier Trias of CiU from the mayoralty.
Both women are symbols of the success of citizen movements and a long awaited political change, which emerging parties such as Podemos want to see continue during the general elections.
“We want to govern while listening, and for the people to call us by our first names,” said Carmena in her inaugural speech, in the presence of Podemos leaders such as Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón.
Five of the provincial capitals now have leaders from social movements, who came to power thanks to votes from the PSOE: they are Madrid (Manuela Carmena), Barcelona (Ada Colau), Zaragoza (Pedro Santisteve), A Coruña (Xulio Ferreiro) and Cádiz (José María González).
After more than 20 years as Mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá was unseated making way for Joan Ribó from Compromís. He secured the mayoral office thanks to support from other leftist groups. In Zamora, years of PP domination came to an end with Francisco Guarido, from the United Left (IU) voted in.
The reaction from PP was to accuse the socialist party (PSOE) of becoming ‘radicalised’ to reach pacts with the sole aim of removing PP from power. Other commentators see PSOE returning to their roots and values.
The PP now has only 19 mayors in provincial capitals, compared to 43 that it won in the previous municipal elections. They currently maintain power in Málaga, Murcia, Ourense, León, Salamanca, Ávila, Palencia, Cáceres, Badajoz, Logroño, Burgos, Santander, Albacete, Almería, Cuenca, with centre right Ciudadanos helping them to power via pacts in Teruel, Guadalajara, Granada, Jaén, Almería and Burgos.
The PSOE, meanwhile, has increased it mayors from 9 to 17 following pacts with parties under the Podemos umbrella and other leftist parties: Lugo, Valladolid, Segovia, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Córdoba, Sevilla, Huelva, Alicante, Castellón, Lleida, Huesca, Palma de Mallorca, Oviedo, Tarragona and Las Palmas. In Soria they won an absolute majority.