Spain 2019b

Spain’s second election of 2019 is today. This is also the fourth general election since 2015.

Bonnie Field did a detailed thread on the parties and their ideological positioning and standing in opinion polls. So go read that, and then as results come in, please come back and comment here.

14 thoughts on “Spain 2019b

  1. I guess everyone is burned out on Spanish elections! No comments the day after, not counting the spam that was somehow not intercepted by the usual filter.

    • Not at all burned out on the topic, just busy tracking a special election here in Puerto Rico (more on that later), held on the same day as the general election in Spain – and sadly with no time for the presidential election held in Romania on Sunday as well, which however will go into a runoff.

      But back to Spain, beyond the fact that Vox and C’s have essentially traded places, not that much has changed from the April election. PSOE and UP slipped back slightly, while PP staged a modest comeback. Meanwhile, Más País, headed by former UP leader Iñigo Errejón, flopped badly, winning only seats in Madrid and Valencia, in the latter case running in alliance with the Valencian nationalist party Compromís, which appears to have furnished most of the votes won by the joint ticket in the region. In addition, one interesting development took place in Aragón’s Teruel province, where a local moderate list, Teruel Exists came out of nowhere to top the poll, winning one of the province’s three seats in Congress. The success of TE appears to have blunted Vox’s rise in Teruel, where the party’s share of the vote increased just slightly, and noticeably less than in Zaragoza and Huesca provinces, or for that matter nationwide.

      Moreover, Vox’s rise was far less pronounced in the “historic” nationality autonomous communities – Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia – as well as Navarre, which has a sizable Basque-speaking minority, and which enjoyed a degree of autonomy even under Franco’s rule. Vox’s advocacy of centralism is politically toxic in the four regions, so it’s no surprise the party remains stuck in the single digits in all of them. However, outside those four regions Vox’s share of the vote rose to 18.7%, securing 50 of 256 seats (19.5%).

      As in the April election, votes-to-seat disparities were concentrated in constituencies with fewer than six seats, while constituencies with six or more seats delivered a relatively proportional outcome, although slightly less so than in April, not least because of C’s collapse: the party sank to almost exactly the same share of the vote polled by UCD back in 1982 – 6.8% – and lost all of its seats in provinces with fewer than nine deputies. Meanwhile, Vox won a nearly proportional share of seats both throughout Spain and in constituencies with as few as three seats; it also secured the city of Ceuta’s single seat in Congress, chosen by plurality voting.

      Throughout much of the campaign it was feared that Errejón’s Más País – which only fielded candidates in constituencies with at least seven seats (except for five-seat Castellón) – would nonetheless act as a spoiler, splitting the left-wing vote and most importantly depriving UP (or PSOE) of a significant number of seats. However, that didn’t turn out to be the case: had all of Más País voters backed UP, only four seats would have changed hands, and two of those seats were in the Valencia region, where Compromís might have otherwise chosen to run on its own, as it did last April.

      Finally, and contrary to general expectations, PSOE and UP reached an agreement today to form a coalition government, which would be the first ever at the national level since the re-establishment of democratic governance over four decades ago. However, the two parties are twenty-one seats short of an overall majority in the Congress of Deputies, and will need the backing or abstention of other parties – quite possibly among them those representing Catalan nationalists – to prevail in a vote of investiture.

  2. Vervassungsblog has a somewhat alarmist article titled The End of Parliamentary Government in Europe:

    There are two main reasons for that: a) the increasing fragmentation that tends to overwhelm any electoral system (mostly proportional), and above all b) the tendency of citizens, societies and politicians to live politics in a radically different way from the past. The relations between competing parties today (and everywhere) have changed radically. Today, divisions are no longer based on conflicting interests, they are genuinely or artificially based on identity, values and cultural issues or even openly ethnicity and race. This makes it much harder for one political force to achieve sufficient consensus to govern alone, and also for coalitions to form and remain manageable. In short, the need for consensual democracy and compromise grows at a time when the necessary conditions are increasingly lacking (and in fact those who lend themselves to compromise are regularly beaten at elections everywhere).

    With the internal challenges that each country faces, with the international challenges that Europe faces in a world of authoritarian or non-democratic democracies, how long can we imagine paying the price for such a level of dysfunctionality? The lesson of the 20th century was that democracies were ruined not by their weakness but by the strength of their governments and regimes. The time has come to remind us of this and to act accordingly.

    I see no other way, at the moment, than to give the citizens the power to vote directly for the executive. It is debatable whether the best way to implement this would be to elect a prime minister as well as a parliament, or a president and a parliament, and what measure of coordination between the two votes would be required. But direct investiture of the executive is needed if we do not want to repeat, in different forms, the mistakes of the past. It’s never going to be too soon.

    I don’t think direct election of the head of government is necessarily the best solution, or even a good solution, but I’d think there should be fairly strict time limits on government formation with the default being an early election. The Greek practice of giving exploratory mandates to parties in order of size is attractive. I would perhaps limit the number of exploratory mandates to 5, not 3 and keep the Greek time limit of three days. There would need to be some rule to identify coalitions that exist before the election so that they could be treated on an equal basis with single parties.

    I’m tempted to note that in Germany MMP is not performing as quite the supreme solution to the problems of representativeness and accountability that it is often said to be, but that would restart the MMP/STV wars, so I wont.

    • I’m sure anyone can read their favorite method of selecting the executive (direct election, FPTP in SMDs, etc) into that conclusion by replacing a few words.

      So I will do the same.

      I’ll start by saying that a directly elected executive in such fragmented systems might make things worse. Let’s say they go to a French style election while retaining their current parliamentary election system. What I see happening is a boring runoff where the major party candidate walks in over a radical of some sort and then struggles to get the parliament to agree on anything. Or you two radicals in the runoff, and whoever wins trumps his way through power while parliament tries to stop him.

      What this fragmentation seems to call for, and here is me just reading in my own preferences, is an Australian style system. Keep the current election system for the “Senate” and let any old yahoos in and hope that the people elect enough sane candidates so that they can be ignored. Elect the other house through a more restrictive districting system, though single member districts need not be mandatory. The keep factor is that whoever wins lower house seats knows that their primary role is to actually foster or oppose the government and represent concrete areas of the country. Not just serve as partisan seat warmers hawking any old philosophy.

      • Mark – I find that suggestion a bit silly. With single member districts you risk the “yahoos” as you put it gaining sole control of the government without even a plurality of the vote due to a lack of strong alternatives and luck of the draw in having an efficient vote distribution. Look at what’s happened to the US to see that in practice. It would also just magnify regional divisions (see Spain’s Senate) – which I would suggest would also make Spain’s problems vastly worse.

        If you want to limit political fragmentation, Carey and Hix’s “The Electoral Sweet Spot:
        Low-Magnitude Proportional Electoral Systems” provides a good set of guidelines for that in my opinion.

        All that being said, I would also not discount the roles of societal attitudes and failures of individual political actors and parties in contributing to Spain’s woes.

        In my view Spain has two main problems to contend with.

        One is that sizable minorities want the democratic right to self determination, while the majority is vehemently opposed to granting them that right. Those minorities hold the balance of power (and rightfully so) between the left and right blocs of parties, but Spain’s left and right blocs aren’t willing to cooperate to marginalize those nationalist minorities. Now, if it was up to me I would just side with democracy and agree that Catalans and Basques should get to decide for themselves which country they want to be a part of, but if you don’t want to do that maybe that unionist parties should try to compromise with each other.

        I think the other major problem though is that Spain’s established parties just haven’t governed very well. It’s not just about systems and districting and the like – parties and leaders (and even voters) have agency too, and I think in Spain they just haven’t used it very well. If you don’t want people to vote for yahoos give them something better to vote for.

      • Ryan

        It cannot just be Spanish institutions or Spanish political parties. The article also means Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.

      • Alan – Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany aren’t suffering from indecisive election results.

      • Carlo Fusaro, who wrote the quoted article, claims it’s the most likely outcome. But it’s not actually a significant point that stands on its own, since he’s not forecasting but looking back too.

        In any case, his argument is weak, contrived, even wrong. He says, already quoted by Alan, “The lesson of the 20th century was that democracies were ruined not by their weakness but by the strength of their governments and regimes. The time has come to remind us of this and to act accordingly. I see no other way, at the moment, than to give the citizens the power to vote directly for the executive.” I deleted a paragraph boundary, but that’s all. I can’t see any way to interpret this other than that he wants to destroy democracy.

        How will a directly elected executive be weaker? Haven’t we seen repeatedly that someone whose mandate comes from the people of the whole nation has power over someone whose mandate comes from some subset?

        In any case, many of his problems seem to be that there’s instability in the party system. But France hasn’t been immune to that. And the US hasn’t been immune to the legitimacy crises of the west — it’s just played out slightly differently.

        I’m not willing to predict the outcome of the Westminster election but I would happily pretend this article never existed.

  3. Isn’t the Spanish electoral system the problem here with the regional parties being disproportionately represented, but national parties that are more geographically dispersed supported not winning as many seats proportionality nationally. Perhaps at large seats should be added with a 5% threshold, and the the 3% for each region which is useless everywhere except for the biggest multiple member districts, make the districts smaller and open up the party lists.

    • Regional parties in Spain are not generally over-represented, if we are comparing their percent of seats to percent of nationwide votes. Smaller statewide parties, however, tend to be under-represented.

      The suggested reforms might all be good ones, although I wonder if the regional cleavage would rule out nationwide compensatory seats (if that is what is meant by “at large”).

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