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Spain General Election - 28 April 2019

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a snap national election to be held on April 28. The election is Spain's third in less than four years, reflecting an increasingly fragmented political landscape. Sanchez was forced to disband the minority government and call the election on 15 February 2019 after its budget proposal was turned down on 13 February 2019. He was unable to get the support of either of the two major Catalan nationalist parties, eventually leading to the decline of the proposal. "Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense," Sanchez said following the announcement. "I have proposed to dissolve parliament and call elections for 28 April," he added.

The next national election had been due mid-2020. The Spanish government of Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Snchez held only 84 seats in the 350-seat lower house. Sanchez considered holding general elections on May 26, 2019 the same day that Spain will vote in local and regional polls and European Parliament elections. On 04 February 2019, Public Works Minister Jos Luis balos said the government had not ruled out calling elections in May as part of a Super Sunday election day. This is the first time a member of the PSOE central leadership had spoken openly about this possibility.

The 2019 Spanish local elections will be held on Sunday, 26 May 2019, to elect all councillors in the municipalities of Spain and all seats in 38 provincial deputations. The next Spanish general election, to elect the 13th Cortes Generales of the Kingdom of Spain, must be held no later than Sunday 26 July 2020, as provided by the Spanish Constitution and the Organic Law of the General Election Regime of 1985.

Huge crowds of anti-government protesters converged on central Madrid on 20 February 2019 to pressure Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to step down and call fresh elections. An estimated 45,000 people packed into the capital's Plaza de Colon, many of them waving Spanish flags and signs reading "Stop Sanchez" and "For a united Spain, elections now!" The rally was organized by the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP) and the center-right Citizens Party, with backing from the far-right party Vox.

Sanchez came to power 01 June 2018, thanks in part to the support of 17 Catalan lawmakers in the national parliament, inheriting the Catalan independence crisis from former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative PP. The Socialist leader held just a quarter of the seats in parliament and relies on backing from anti-austerity party Podemos, Catalan nationalists and other small parties to pass laws. If Sanchez failed to secure enough votes to pass the 2019 national budget, he may be forced to call snap polls. Opinion polls suggest the PP, Citizens Party and Vox would win a majority of seats in parliament if early elections were held.

Right-wing and Catalan separatist lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a draft 2019 budget, a move that could force Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to call early elections. A total of 191 lawmakers in the 350-member assembly voted in favor of amendments to block the budget. But the Catalan parties, unhappy with the governments refusal to consider or discuss among other issues an independence referendum for their northeastern region, voted against it, as did the rightwing parties. Negotiations with the new separatist coalition that took power in the northeastern Catalonia region after the 2017 independence push broke down when Sanchezs government refused to accept self-determination talks.

This is the second time a government has ever lost a budget vote in this way; the last time that a government lost a budget vote was the Felipe Gonzalez socialist government. After it lost the budget, it had to call early elections and, just by coincidence, it was also the Catalan nationalist parties that voted against that budget.

Opinion polls show one outcome of snap elections could be a right-wing majority in parliament, including a newly-emerged far-right party. Spain's opposition immediately came out in support of a new vote, with Pablo Casado, head of the conservative People's Party, saying that "we want elections now" to "stop separatism and unite Spaniards." It was not clear yet when a snap election would be announced, but April 14 and April 28 had been floated as possible dates.

Sanchez is said to be keen on holding an election as soon as possible, in order to mobilize left-leaning voters against the threat of the right returning to power. Currently, Sanchez's Socialists lead opinion polls, with roughly 30 percent of voters saying they would back the party. But the two main right-of-center parties, Partido Popular (Popular Party) and Ciudadanos (Citizens), together have polled at more than 30 percent.

Polls showed no party will get a majority, pointing to lengthy negotiations between possible coalition partners, potentially including the far-right Vox. The conservative's People Party (PP) and centre-right Ciudadanos would not be far behind Sanchez's PSOE (Socialist Workers' Party), and could theoretically form a coalition with Vox, as they did in the Andalusia region in December 2018. One of the main issues during the upcoming campaign will be Catalonia's drive for independence. PP, Ciudadanos and Vox will all try to get the votes of those that oppose an independent Catalonia.

Spains Socialists increased their lead in a poll published 30 March 2019 in newspaper ABC with 30.9 percent of votes, equivalent to between 131 and 134 seats in the 350-seat parliament, but fell short of a majority ahead of a general election on April 28. A coalition of three right-wing parties - Peoples Party (PP), Ciudadanos and far-right Vox - would get 46.5 percent of votes, equivalent to between 157 and 166 seats at the parliament, but would also be short of the 176 seats needed to secure an outright parliamentary majority. The Socialists support has increased by 0.3 percent since a previous poll by GAD3 published by ABC on March 10. Socialist Pedro Sanchez could clinch a majority to get re-elected as prime minister if he won the support of the array of parties, including Podemos and Catalan pro-independence parties, that backed him last June when he won a vote of confidence against PPs government at the time. Another poll published on 31 March 2019 by El Pais newspaper also gave the Socialists the victory in the election but with a smaller lead. The party would win 27.1 percent of the vote, or 122 seats, still short of a majority.

For the third time in four years Spaniards headed to polling stations Sunday 28 April 2019, poised to confirm a Europe-wide electoral pattern of voters moving away from traditional parties. With the emergence of new populist-based factions, European politics is becoming more fragmented, leading to minority governments, misshapen governing coalitions, more political deadlock and less predictability. That is likely to be the fate of Spain come Sunday, with some analysts forecasting another snap election may have to be called later in the year.

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) led by Pedro Sanchez, the current prime minister, had a minority government, holding only 85 of 350 seats in Spains Congress of Deputies. The remaining seats have been fought over bitterly by a number of fringe parties that have gained traction in recent years. The Socialists were expected to attract the largest share of the vote in an ill-natured general election on April 28, which has seen tempers fray and accusations of treason being hurled with abandon. The rise of the ultra-nationalist Vox party, which last December won 12 seats in the regional parliament in Andalusia, has added a sharpness and volatility to the election. Coming out on top of the polls would be a remarkable achievement in itself for Sanchez until last year the Socialists were mired in vicious splits and appeared out for the count following two bruising electoral defeats. Pollsters suggest Sanchezs party will secure 30 percent of the vote.

PSOE was likely be denied an overall majority. It will be best positioned, though, to try to form a formal coalition government, the first at the national level since the restoration of democracy in 1977, predict pollsters and analysts. Sanchez began the Socialist comeback last May when he seized on a string of corruption scandals to unseat the Conservative government of Mariano Rajoy with a surprise no-confidence motion that attracted the support of lawmakers in the the leftist Podemos party as well as Catalan and Basque nationalists.

Since then as the prime minister of a minority government, Sanchez has been astute in rebuilding the PSOEs base with a series of progressive actions. They have included hiking the minimum wage, appointing a female-dominated Cabinet and starting the legal process to move the embalmed body of the late military dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, from a huge mausoleum near Madrid, which has become a shrine for far-right activists. The PSOE and PP used to dominate Spanish politics, on the left and right respectively. However, the 2008 financial crisis and years of austerity that followed led to fatigue among society with the traditional two big parties, and disenchantment with politicians in a country that only implemented democracy less than 40 years ago.

Until 2015, the PSOE and the conservative Popular Party (PP alternated in power, sometimes relying on Catalan or Basque nationalists to make up the numbers to secure a working parliamentary majority. But with newer populist-based parties vying for votes, including the right-of-center Ciudadanos, leftist Podemos as well as the far-right Vox, the ease of what was in essence a two-party political system has long disappeared.

Vox, an ultra-nationalist party led by Santiago Abascal, has risen from nowhere to become a serious electoral force. Last December it won 12 seats in regional elections in Andalusia, overturning a post-1977 article of political faith in Spain that an avowedly far-right party couldnt establish itself because of memories of Spains long-running dictatorship. Franco ruled Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975. Vox promises to make Spain great again and crack down on immigration.

While Voxs rise mirrors that of populist parties in France, Italy, and the Netherlands, the party is not particularly anti-EU, in the vein of Marine Le Pens National Rally. It has, however, positioned itself as a champion of Spanish nationalism and opponent of immigration, much like its other European counterparts.

Vox has capitalized on the fragmentation of the PPs voter base, and has succeeded in shaping the agenda by pushing other conservative parties further to the right, Dr. Alejandro Quiroga, a reader in Spanish history at Newcastle University, told RT. Vox is expected to win a handful of seats in Madrid and southern Spain. Despite predictions of modest success, some Vox voters could be keeping their opinions to themselves when polled.

Vox, which is attracting Conservative voters angry with Catalan efforts to separate from Spain, has fragmented the right and pulled its two main parties, the conservative PP and center-right Ciudadanos, to more extreme ideological positions. Vox leaders say pollsters are getting it wrong. They maintain they will be able to form a right wing coalition after Sundays vote with the PP and Ciudadanos. I dont expect the socialists to be able to form a government, says party official Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros.

Although Spains unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of 26 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2018, it is still double the European average. However, economic issues have taken a back seat to the issue of secessionism in Catalonia. Spain has grappled with Basque separatism for decades, and another pro-independence movement poses a direct threat to the countrys integrity. Left-wing parties favor negotiation with the Catalonians, coupled with financial and limited self-government initiatives. The right favors a crackdown on the power of regional governments, and the PP, Ciudadanos, and Vox have been using Catalonia to justify their authoritarianism.

Culture-war issues have also risen to the forefront. Sanchez has painted himself as a champion of social justice and liberal reforms, appointing a record number of women to cabinet positions. Vox represents a backlash to Sanchezs proud liberalism, opposing gender violence laws which it claims discriminate against men and advocating a ban on public hospitals performing abortions and sex change operations.

Perhaps the best illustration of the cultural divide between the right and the left can be seen in attitudes towards the Spanish tradition of bullfighting. Animal rights party Pacma founded 16 years ago to campaign against the sport looked set to win two seats, according to a recent poll. Vox, on the other hand, enlisted bullfighters as candidates in Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona and Huesca.

In a vote that saw one of the highest turnout levels in recent years, Spain's ruling Socialists held a clear lead but fell well short of a majority. Despite it being the third election in four years turnout in the vote was at around 75%, up more than 8 points since the previous election in 2016, according to the Interior Ministry. Turnout was especially high in the Catalonia region, the scene of a secession attempt in 2017, rising nearly 18 percentage points to over 64%. Overall it was the highest electoral turnout in Spain since 2008.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was on course to win Spain's snap general election on Sunday, with 90 percent of voted counted. His Socialist party PSOE won nearly 30% of the vote. Conservative rivals Partido Popular (PP) faced devastating loses, shedding more than half of their seats in parliament. Attempts by its new leader, Pablo Casado, to steer his party further to the right to appeal to those that might otherwise vote for Vox appear to have failed. Far-right nationalist Vox party was poised to enter the lower house of Parliament for the first time with about 10% of the vote. It marks a far-right party enters the legislature since the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship of the 1970s.

PSOE won some 123 seats, while far-left Unidas Podemos registered 42, in the 350 seat parliament. The two fell 11 seats short of forming a governing coalition together. Sanchez will have to search for support for smaller parties to make up the difference, as right wing Ciudadanos, which came up right behind PP, had ruled out its participation.

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