On Sunday 28th April, the Spanish took to the polls for the third time in four years to elect their representatives to the Cortes Generales, the bicameral legislative chambers of the Spanish Parliament.
It has been at best a severely tumultuous few years in Spanish politics, with the recent violence in Catalan – where police tried to brutally quash peaceful nationalist street protests – still fresh in our collective memory. However, that is just one piece of a complicated puzzle.
In June 2018, the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, successfully removed Mariano Rajoy’s ‘People’s Party’ from office through a motion of no-confidence, after several of his cabinet members were convicted on corruption charges. The motion passed by only four votes.
Sánchez had in fact been removed as leader of his own party back in late-2016 in a coupwhich ended 10 months of a stalemate in which Spain was effectively without a functioning government, and returned Rajoy’s party to power (only for Sánchez to regain the party leadership in June of 2017 and remove Rajoy a year later!).
So, quite the few years it’s been in Spain. What’s important out of all this is that Sánchez and the PSOE have moved from a position of trying to maintain a near-impossible minority government with only 84 of 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies, to an impressive 123 seats meaning they can govern almost entirely as a Socialist bloc within the congress alongside the left-wing Populist party, Podemos.
Despite it being a dire night for Podemos, losing 29 deputies mainly because of the PSOE’s bounce, the election acts as a symbol of resistance to the growing lurch to the far-right across Europe. That doesn’t mean that Spain is exempt from this narrative, as this election also saw the far-right Vox party win 24 seats with 10% of the vote.
However, Sánchez and the PSOE seem to have bucked the trend which should give those on the left hope in the fight against the new Neo-Fascist ‘internationale’ growing across the world. Whether it be Trump and Bolsanaro in the America’s, or Duterte and Modi in Asia, or Orban, Le Pen, Salvini and Farage in Europe; the rise of the xenophobic, misogynistic, radical right has been truly terrifying and we can only expect big gains for the European cohort in tomorrow’s EU elections.
What the story of Sánchez and the PSOE exemplify is the real need to reject historical determinism when it comes to the rise of the far right. The left will only ever be strong when it is united, working to build coalitions amongst progressives, Socialists and anyone who rejects the nativist politics of fear and division that the right capitalise on and manipulate for their own electoral ends. Europe is not destined to be ruled by those wishing to take us back to the 1930’s.
There is a long road ahead for the left in Spain and across the world, but by building that international coalition we can fight back against regression. It is especially important for the left in the UK to make the case for remaining and reforming the EU from within. Now more than ever, we must stay and fight for that better Europe. We’ll all be the better for it.