Spain’s opposition Conservative Party (PP) is on track to make big gains in Sunday’s key regional and municipal elections, according to a new poll which suggests the party will tighten its grip on Madrid and could pull out the regions of Valencia and of Aragon from power. Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).
The GAD3 poll for Spanish public television, published just after the polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, gives an absolute majority to the populist PP regional president in Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and indicates that the party is ahead. the PSOE to win the most seats in Valencia and Aragon.
The survey also suggests Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona, will successfully rise to the challenges of the regional branch of the Socialist Party and a centre-right Catalan independence party.
Sunday’s election, which comes after a bitter and fractious campaign marked by a row over the defunct Eta terror organization and allegations of voter fraud, will serve as a gauge of the political mood ahead of December’s general election.
Polling results in 12 regions and more than 8,000 city councils are also expected to signal a tight return to the two-party system that dominated Spanish politics before the eruption of anti-austerity far-left Podemos and the current Citizens’ Party of moribund centre-right.
As of 6 p.m. local time, turnout was 51.5%, 1.5 percentage points higher than the 2019 elections. In the Madrid region, turnout was 57%, or 5.7 percentage points more than in 2019. In Valencia, participation increased by 6.6 percentage points to 57.8%.
The PP has sought to use the elections as a referendum on Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his style of government, which it calls Sanchismo and portrayed as incompetent, overambitious and determined to stay in power.
“These are not just elections to choose a mayor or a regional government,” PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said at an end-of-campaign rally on Friday.
“Sanchism has sullied everything and I am afraid to say, with respect but sadness, that the Prime Minister of my country has no limits. His party was unable to stop him, so we must do it together as Spaniards.
Sánchez struck a less combative note after casting his vote on Sunday morning, urging people to ignore the rows of the past few days and vote calmly.
“It’s very important that we all go and vote and do it in a positive way, forgetting about this intolerance, this noise, this belittlement and these tensions that a minority tries to stir up,” he said. “I am confident that the majority of citizens will vote positively, respectfully and thoughtfully.”
Sánchez began the campaign hoping to highlight his coalition government’s economic record, housing reforms and youth aid programs.
But the first week of the campaign descended into bitter battles over the past, after it emerged that the Basque nationalist party, EH Bildu – on whose support the minority government is relying in Congress – was fielding 44 convicted members of Eta, including seven people convicted of violent crimes, as candidates.
Sánchez criticized Bildu’s decision – calling it legal but “obviously indecent” – and the Basque party later announced that the seven candidates convicted of violence would not take their seats, but the PP seized on the issue as further proof of the government’s thirst to stay in power.
Feijóo attacked Sánchez for his dependence on the independent Bildu and Catalan parties – and for the failed sex offenses legislation, introduced by his junior coalition partners in Podemos, which allowed more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders to have their sentence reduced and over 100 to win early release.
“You are the great electoral hope of rapists and pederasts, mutineers, squatters, corrupt people and now those who walked around in balaclavas with pistols,” he told Sánchez. “And I never will.”
Eta, which abandoned its armed campaign in 2011 and disbanded five years ago, murdered 829 people in its five-decade quest to create an independent Basque country.
Sánchez said the PP’s tired reliance on the specter of a defunct terrorist group was evidence of its lack of electoral initiatives. “What is your proposal on housing? he asked the party. “Eta. In other words, nothing. On education? Eta. In other words, nothing. On the climate emergency? Eta. In other words, nothing.
“When Eta is nothing in Spain, it’s still your everything. Because, in your desperation, Eta is all you have, even if it doesn’t exist.
The rows over Eta were followed by fears of voter fraud after police in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla arrested 10 people suspected of taking part in an alleged mail-in vote-buying fraud. Seven other people suspected of vote buying have been arrested in the Andalusian town of Mojácar, while police are also investigating possible fraud in the Canary Islands and the region of Murcia.
The PP could capitalize on the rows of recent days and fatigue with the coalition government, which has been in power since 2019, but polls suggest it will likely have to rely on the support of the long-standing Vox party to form new ones. regional governments in all countries. disputed regions with the exception of Madrid.
However, entering into coalitions with Vox – as it has already done in the region of Castilla and León – would allow the left to present the PP as a party ready to abandon the center and make agreements with the far right. to win. power.
“Vox is growing in all regions and will gain more power and be in more regional parliaments and more councils than in 2019,” said Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid.
“All surveys show that the PP will need Vox to govern in all regions except Madrid. This means that Vox, which is campaigning very low key and trying not to be wrong, will seek to enter coalition governments.