Spain’s Elections Have Put Regional Parties in a Bind

Spain’s Elections Have Put Regional Parties in a Bind
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez greets PSOE president and Senate Vice President Cristina Narbona after the country’s general elections, in Madrid, Spain, July 24, 2023 (Europa Press/Sipa photo by Carlos Luján via AP Images).

Spain’s inconclusive elections on July 23 left both the conservative and progressive blocs unable to form a majority government. As a result, political parties representing Catalan, Basque and Galician regional nationalists hold the keys to determining the next prime minister. Though their options are limited, how they navigate the current landscape will have implications for Spain’s national politics as well as other regional nationalist movements in Europe.

In the past, both the leftist Spanish Socialist Workers Party, or PSOE, and the conservative People’s Party, PP, have regularly relied on the support of the regional parties to govern, with the most recent example being the PSOE-led minority government of current Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. However, given the outcome of last month’s voting, that option is not available to PP party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo.

Though the PP finished with the most seats in parliament, Feijoo would not be able to form a conservative coalition government without also including the far-right Vox party, which has pledged to ban separatist parties and harden Spain’s policies on regional languages and devolved powers. But since a PP-Vox coalition would still come up short, Feijoo would also need the support of a regional party. And the one most likely in principle to cooperate with him—the moderate Basque nationalist PNV party—has already ruled out participating in any government that includes Vox. Nor did the PNV change its position after Vox offered to support a PP-led minority government without participating in it.

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