Spanish political party Podemos has vowed to gain more votes in national polls this year than the ruling Popular Party (PP) after considerable gains in local and regional elections. Challenger parties such as Podemos, an anti-austerity party, and Ciudadanos, a market friendly party, split the vote in many regions. The Popular Party is seen to be responsible for the reduction in spending and also concerns regarding transparency within the government. The PP and the Socialists (PSOE) may now have to negotiate coalitions with minority parties to meet the necessary majorities in 13 of Spain’s 17 regions that voted at the weekend.
The results of the local and regional elections pose the prospect for a close national election later this year. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, leader of the Popular Party, may look to revitalise his party’s efforts in campaigning with Podemos and Ciudadanos aiming to have similar effects on national elections. In the weekend’s elections the Popular Party gained the most votes having received 27% of the popular vote whilst the Socialist Party came second with 25% of the vote. Podemos gained significantly in regions such as Andalusia where it gained fifteen seats which requires the governing Socialist Party to form a coalition. Equally, in PP regions of strength such as Valencia and Madrid potential left-wing coalitions might send the party into the opposition for the first time in twenty years.
Podemos (‘We Can’) is often compared with its Greek ally Syriza although the party has moderated its policies to attempt to appeal to more centrist voters. Podemos’ economic policies, in response to austerity in Spain, focus on reforming the European Union’s bank, the European Central Bank, so that there it is held to account by the European Parliament. Podemos also aim to reduce the use of fossil fuels and increase public transport whilst also placing the economy back in public control. Ciudadanos (‘Citizens’) focus on a reduction in corporation tax, promotion of party funding transparency and a reduction to bureaucracy.
Europe has seen as increase in challenger political parties whom appear to target the traditional parties in their countries. The Front National (FN) in France, United Kingdom Independence Party, Syriza in Greece have also significantly affected their country’s politics. These parties often either campaign to certain demographics regarding specific issues such as immigration, the economy, government transparency and EU membership. Equally, they often affect the message of political debate by championing certain topics until these challenges may be important areas of campaigning come election time. Challenger parties may often appeal to people who might be first-time voters or groups which aim to have their views promoted by a political party.
The diverse nature of political parties in the European Union might shape the debate in the European parliament and national legislatures. Equally, they may move traditional parties to attempt to appeal to more voters instead of just their core bases. An increase in political groups whom represent minority voters might also increase participation in politics and increase representation in both Europe and on a national level. Many of these emerging challenger parties may affect election results through gaining power, such as Syriza, or pushing countries to coalitions.
Ciudadanos and Podemos may represent a change in Spanish politics through their gains and might challenge traditional parties on a national level. Parties similar to them also represent the desires of some voters whom may be seeking representation in the political system. The level of change these parties may achieve is yet to be seen. Spanish politics might change considerably in the following year with national elections, although the role the parties may play in shaping the message during the campaign might be equally important.
How may these parties productively influence the future of Spain?