What next for Spain after inconclusive election?

21st December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Spain woke up with a political headache Monday after the incumbent conservatives won a weekend election but lost their absolute majority, tailed by the Socialists and far-left upstart party Podemos.

The results mean that the ruling Popular Party (PP) now has the unenviable task of trying to form a stable government -- or risk getting booted out altogether.

The PP obtained 123 seats -- 63 less than in 2011 -- the Socialist PSOE followed with 90, then Podemos with 69, centre-right Ciudadanos with 40 and smaller parties the remainder.

Here are the scenarios that could emerge over what are likely to be weeks of difficult negotiations to form a stable government in the eurozone's fourth largest economy:

Conservatives rule as minority government

After holding talks with the leaders of each party that has won seats in parliament, King Felipe VI, the head of state, will nominate a prime minister -- most likely incumbent premier and PP leader Mariano Rajoy.

The nominated leader must then win a vote of confidence in parliament in order to take office.

One option could be that centre-right upstart Ciudadanos, led by the slick 36-year-old Albert Rivera, and the PSOE abstain in the vote of confidence, allowing the PP through.

"In return, Rajoy would probably have to go and someone else take his place," says Fernando Vallespin, politics professor at Madrid's Autonomous University.

But that would mean that the PP would constantly be negotiating any bill it wants to pass through parliament, he adds.

And analysts say it would almost certainly lead to a short-lived legislature as there will come a time when other parties will clash with the PP due to their fundamentally different ideologies, leading to early elections.

Left-wing/nationalist coalition to oust PP

If the PSOE, Podemos and other smaller left-wing and nationalist parties grouped together, they could obtain the 176 seats needed for an absolute majority and boot out the PP -- in a similar scenario to events in neighbouring Portugal.

A highly unlikely scenario, analysts say, as Podemos will not want to get into bed with the PSOE -- vying as it is to replace it as the country's main left-wing party.

"The problem of a left-wing pact is that it doesn't only require a pact of two parties but of many more," adds Berta Barbet, politics professor at the University of Barcelona.

And among those parties would be two separatist groupings in the northeastern region of Catalonia that won a total of 17 seats in parliament.

And that's where the scenario becomes near impossible.

The PSOE is fervently against independence in Catalonia, where a secessionist movement is on the rise, and opposes holding a Scotland-style referendum in the wealthy region.

Podemos, for its part, does not want to see Catalonia separate from the rest of Spain but is in favour of letting the region have its say in a referendum.

"This outcome would be the most damaging from an economic standpoint," says Eurasia Group analyst Federico Santi.

"PSOE would be hostage to more radical parties, likely causing policy to drift in a more populist direction."

A grand coalition

An alliance between Spain's long-established rivals -- the PP and the PSOE -- could happen if all else fails.

"The grand coalition would be the most stable but it's not viable at all," says Barbet.

"It would severely alienate large segments of PSOE's base, which would favour an alliance with the radical left over placing in power another conservative government," adds Eurasia's Santi.

New elections

If negotiations fail and no government is formed within two months after the first vote of confidence, the king will have no other option but to call fresh elections.

© 2015 AFP

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