Alejandro Chafuen, Acton’s Managing Director, International, comments in Forbes today on the results of the European Parliament elections that concluded this past Sunday. Many European countries showed gains for nationalist, Euroskeptic and environmentalist parties at the expense of more traditional centrist groups and of socialist parties. Chafuen focuses particularly on the results in Spain and their divergence from this general trend.
Among socialists in Europe, it seems that those of the Spanish Workers Party, Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), were some of the few who had something to celebrate after last Sunday’s European elections. In a recent piece I wrote for Forbes, I explained that an important part of the elite and the general population, including in the business sector, are happy with the European “consensus”: an economy with a large state presence managed and directed by “experts.” These pro-Europeans did well in Spain, except the hard-left party Podemos (“we can”), which suffered a humiliating defeat.
In addition to the European elections, the Spaniards also had their municipal and regional elections, which, coming one month after the national election, were an early test for the victorious socialists. The results showed that there were no “morning after” regrets towards PSOE, though that may not be the case for Podemos, personified by its Chavista leader Pablo Iglesias. A large proportion of Spanish voters are happy with their statism.
In the European Parliament election, the Spanish socialists garnered 32.8% of the vote, followed by the Popular Party (PP) with 20%. On the domestic front the PP did well in some very important local elections such as in Madrid, where together with other parties it was able to bring socialist control of the city to an end. This victory buoyed the young leader of the party, Pablo Casado Blanco. Some of the old party “bosses” are still pushing Casado to move from the center-right into the center, despite the fact that under Mariano Rajoy, who epitomized the role of a centrist, the Popular Party was on a seemingly endless downward spiral.
Soon after the PSOE assumed power in Spain, the economic indicators started to weaken. Being in power for less than one year there was not enough time to create a calamity. The economy was improving during the last years of Mariano Rajoy’s government (in power December 21, 2011-June 1, 2018), but not enough to compensate for his political weaknesses. To be able to form a government in Madrid, the PP will need the support of Ciudadanos, a centrist force but liberal in values, and Vox, the conservative party. These past elections are further proof that a multiparty reality is consolidating in Spain.
The Spanish socialists’ strong showing in Europe comes as the continent is getting more difficult for left-wing parties to navigate. The socialists had dismal results in neighboring France. Across Europe, the Popular Party Group (center-right) group again won the election, capturing 178 seats versus 153 for the social democrats. In several of the most populous countries—the United Kingdom, France and Italy—as well as Poland and Hungary, the conservative parties scored big wins. The combined population of these countries is approximately 240 million, close to half of all EU.