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Spain to Hold 3rd General Elections in 4 Years, More Divided Than Ever

© REUTERS / Andrea ComasA worker packs ballots for Spain's upcoming elections in a warehouse in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid, Spain, June 15, 2016
A worker packs ballots for Spain's upcoming elections in a warehouse in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid, Spain, June 15, 2016 - Sputnik International
BRUSSELS (Sputnik) – Spain is approaching the third general elections to be held in the country in four years, which are slated for Sunday, with the nation more divided than ever.

Many recent events will influence the vote. There was the huge economic crisis of 2008, which hit Spain harder than anywhere else in Europe since the country's economic boom was based on the construction industry. The events eventually led to the appearance of the Podemos Party and the Citizens Party, on the left and right respectively.

There was the corruption scandal that "killed" former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government and created the downfall of his party, the Christian Democratic People's Party (PP).

There was also the very long Catalan crisis, with the declaration of Catalan independence by the Barcelona government of Carles Puigdemont, then his escape to Belgium and the trial of members of his government in Madrid.

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Another factor has been the surprise success of the far-right party Vox in regional elections in Andalusia, the most populous region of Spain. Vox has been the kingmaker, making it possible for the PP and liberals from the Citizens Party to eject the socialists for the first time in decades.

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Additionally, there was also the return of the socialists in the minority government of Pedro Sanchez from the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). But he could not satisfy the Catalan separatists, supporting him from outside, and his government fell after a vote on the budget. Sanchez now occupies a caretaker role.

This a rocky period in Spanish politics, with many angry demonstrations in Madrid and Barcelona, from the left as well as from the right, ahead of the general election on Sunday, the 28th of April, while the trial of the 8 prominent Catalan separatists will continue in Madrid until September.

Who Will Win?

It is unlikely that anyone will win a majority of votes and seats in parliament, making it very difficult for the left or right to form a government without support from others. Hence, it is expected that there will be a coalition government.

The polls show the winners in votes and seats to be Pedro Sanchez's socialists, who have benefitted from the economy recovering over the last months. The PSOE will probably come in first with 29 percent of the vote.

The PP will come next, recovering slightly after Rajoy's demise, with 20 percent.

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Still likely to come in third, following several polls, is the Citizens Party, whose support peaked in April of last year, but has declined since then to 15 percent.

Unidos Podemos, the left-wing alliance, will probably muster around 13 percent.

But snapping at the heels of the anti-austerity Podemos, the leftwing coalition is Vox. Having never won a seat in Congress, the party is on course to take about 10 percent of the vote, following polls, but some observers see them winning more, if only because many people prefer not to mention that they vote for an anti-immigration party.

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Then, of course, there is the small Basque party and the Catalan parties who are in favour of independence.

So there appears to be no clear winner; coalitions are needed on the right as well as on the left, and even so, they would bring the coalition to between 44 percent and 48 percent of the vote, slighly short of a majority in the parliament.

Issues Where Every Party Has Own Opinion

A Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) poll, the most followed in Spain, has identified the country’s biggest problems as unemployment (61.8 percent of the respondents); corruption and fraud took second place, amid a graft probe around the PP (33.3 percent). Other problems identified by Spanish citizens are the regional issues linked to political life (29.1 percent).

The three right-wing parties have talked a lot about immigration since the autumn of 2018 when Italy closed the Central Mediterranean route for illegal migrants, and they now come to Spain via Morocco in speedboats, to the beaches of southern Spain. Following the same poll, the issue was only a main concern for 8.9 percent of those surveyed.

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The issue of Catalan independence, which appears to trouble 11 percent of Spaniards, is still one of the dominant political themes of the past few years and will play a role in the election, maybe because the trials in Madrid show the separatists in front of their judges every day on television.

In Catalonia, the most recent regional elections showed that the separatist parties retain a very small majority. It means a strong minority of Catalans disagree with independence. It is a problem within a problem.

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So, the PSOE will probably come in first on Sunday night and will try to form a government with a majority composed of several parties. If Sanchez fails, it will be the turn of Pablo Casado, the new leader of the PP to try to unite the Citizens and Vox in a different project.

A big unknown is what Vox will do.

There is the only certainty: if a new government is not formed, another general election will be held.

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