There is only one winner among the main Spanish leaders. Only one and his name is Mariano Rajoy Brey, who showed once more that “life means resisting”, like he used to say by SMS to Luis Bárcenas’ wife. Rajoy resisted. He is the big winner of the most surprising electoral night of the whole democratic history: the night when all surveys failed.
The Popular Party (PP) has broadly improved its results in both votes and seats. It has grown at the expense of Citizens (Ciudadanos) and of the abstention of all the rest. It is not only by far the first party from the rest, but together with Ciudadanos, it also exceeds in votes and seats the sum of the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and Together We Can (Unidos Podemos). It seems that all possible governmental coalitions have to pass through PP and that Mariano Rajoy can resist like president, simply because there is no alternative candidate. No possible governmental coalition can be formed with the pact that Podemos was proposing to PSOE and with the nationalists’ support or abstention. Neither does this transversal government between PSOE, Ciudadanos, and Unidos Podemos seems viable, since it was wrecked three months ago and it is even more difficult to achieve today because of the mutual vetos.
PSOE is resisting the hit and getting through beyond all expectations, despite its defeat even in Andalusia. It minimally increases its December percentage –not the absolute number–, but loses five seats in the worse result of its history, a new record. It continues being the key for every governmental coalition, but it remains to be seen if it has sufficient power to get Mariano Rajoy out of Moncloa. But it did score a victory of no minor importance: it maintained itself as the second political force and avoided the overtaking by the parties of the left that all surveys were giving as granted. An overtaking that failed in the strategy and in the tactics and that leaves PP in power, stronger than what it was three months ago.
Unidos Podemos keeps its seats, but loses one in every five votes: more than one million in total. 71 seats are an exceptional result for a coalition led by a party with only two years of history, but it is still very bad considering the expectations and its own December votes separately. The same electoral law that penalised the United Left (IU) is now serving to save the day and the seats.
The rejection of Pablo Iglesias ways –a leader worse valued than his party, according to the surveys– by a large part of his electorate has taken its toll. The strategy of good cop / bad cop functions better when both roles are interpreted by different persons; Iglesias’ costume of moderation during the campaign was not enough to make his more aggressive ways of these last months be forgotten. The decreasing surveys have also had an influence, which, in their error, could have conditioned the result. All these factors have consolidated the strategic vote between the conservative sectors that were afraid of Unidos Podemos and that have mobilised a part of the socialist vote that voted Podemos in December and which has preferred now to save PSOE from the historical disaster of its overtaking.
PP will continue in the government and Mariano Rajoy will very probably remain in Moncloa. The Prime Minister will have to deal with the most difficult parliament in history that will bring about without doubt parliamentary turnarounds every day.
PP is governing because there is no alternative government; however it will face a majority incapable of understanding each other –PSOE, Unidos Podemos, Ciudadanos, and the nationalists– but opposite to the way that Rajoy understands politics. Under another PM, this parliamentarian minority would have a more rich and plural life. Under Rajoy, what awaits most probably is a government based on decree-laws.
As far as Ciudadanos is concerned, they will pay the price for the electoral law, for PP’s call for a useful vote and for its pact with PSOE, disliked by the largest part of its voters that come from the right. They lose, maybe for always, the historical opportunity to construct an alternative to corrupted PP, in the medium term they will probably have the same fortune as the Democratic and Social Center (CDS) or the Union for Progress and Democracy (UpyD). Neither will they have a lot of manoeuvring space in the inevitable negotiation that they will have with PP. This pact will be costly to Rajoy but it is doubtful that Ciudadanos, with 32 seats, will be able to get from PP big concessions.
“This has not been, as you know, an easy period, or told in another way, it has been a very difficult period”, says the winner of the night in a chaotic and stumbling speech that resulted embarrassing. It is a collective failure: the failure of the left, incapable of coming to an agreement in the last three months that now is leaving this PP in Moncloa.