Spanish voters began voting Sunday in municipal and local elections that pave the way for legislative elections at the end of the year, in light of opinion polls predicting the defeat of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the return of the right to power.
Polling stations opened at nine o’clock (7:00 GMT) and closed at 20:00 (18:00 GMT). Preliminary results are expected to be released around 22:00 (20:00 GMT), as Spain does not release opinion polls when voters leave polling stations after they close.
Sanchez, accompanied by his wife, cast his ballot just before 9:30 am in Madrid.
The elections include all 8131 municipalities, or 35.5 million voters, assemblies, and thus local governments, in 12 out of 17 Spanish autonomous regions, including 18.3 million voters.
Federico Santi, an analyst at the Euragia Group Center, said in a study published this week, “If the left achieves a result that exceeds expectations and manages to retain control over most of the local governments proposed (in the elections) … this will mean that the legislative elections will witness intense competition and it will be a serious indication.” his chances of staying in power” at the end of the year.
But if the polls predict a right-wing breakthrough, it will give the leader of the Popular Party (conservative), the most prominent of the opposition formations, Alberto Núñez Vallejo the necessary “push” to win the legislative elections in the fall, according to Santi.
Sanchez, who has been prime minister since 2018, faces several obstacles as he accepts these double elections, which are a decline in his image after years in power, and the return of inflation, although it remains in Spain much lower than in most European Union countries, and the resulting decline. Sharp purchasing power.
Likewise, his government has suffered from successive crises that shake the alliance between the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and its noisy partner in the ruling coalition, the far-left Podemos party.
This is what prompted Vallejo to do everything in his power to turn these elections into a national referendum on Pedro Sanchez, whom he accuses of being submissive to the far left, and even to the Basque and Catalan separatists, on whom his government relies to pass its reforms in Parliament, where it does not have a majority.
“I am asking for the votes of Spain, which wants to put an end to the ‘Sanche movement’ as of Sunday,” Vallejo said on Friday evening in Madrid, during the last electoral rally he organized, a phrase he called the prime minister’s policies.
Sanchez, for his part, has focused his campaign on the outcome of his government, particularly on drought and water management, a topic of growing importance in Spain.
“Social democratic policies suit Spain more than neoliberal policies,” he said Friday evening, concluding his party’s campaign in Barcelona (northeast), stressing, “We manage the economy much better.”
What adds to the weakness of Sanchez’s position is that the Socialists run 10 of the 12 regions that renew their associations, either directly or within a coalition.
On the other hand, this entitlement constitutes a huge bet for Fayejo, as the number of regions that the Popular Party will be able to wrest from the Socialists will be an indication of public opinion whether Fayejo won this first round and will succeed in reaching the prime ministership at the end of the year.
But Fayejo also faces problems, most notably the far-right “Vox” party, which represents the third force in Parliament and aspires to become an indispensable partner for the Popular Party in order to exercise power in the regions, and later at the national level. The Popular Party and Vox govern together in Castilla e Leon, a region that does not vote on Sunday.
Realizing that the legislative elections decide their results in the middle, Fayejo has sought, since assuming the presidency of the Popular Party a year ago, to give an image of moderation to his party, and thus keep the Vox party at a distance. Thus, he will be in danger if Fox achieves an excellent result in several areas.
The election campaign witnessed in the past few days several cases of fraud related to the purchase of votes by mail, most of which are related to socialist candidates.
It is difficult to assess the impact of these scandals, but they certainly do not strengthen the position of Sanchez, who has made governance one of the priorities of his rule and has long blamed the corruption of previous right-wing governments.
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