Spain has been one of the EU member states where the EU has enjoyed a better image and acceptance from public opinion since its accession to the EU as a member state in 1986. The huge investments made in Spain from the European Union, through the Cohesion Fund, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or the Common Agricultural Policy, brought the Spanish citizens a great increase in welfare and the modernisation of the State. But the financial crisis and the collapse of the Spanish real estate bubble led the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, commonly known as the Troika, to take over the Spanish economy through unpopular policies that for a large part of the society were perceived as international impositions, which aimed to save the interests of the big economical elites, without taking in consideration the citizens’ needs and penalising the responsible of this situation. Since this moment, and clearly following a European-level phenomenon, we can say that the popularity of the EU has sharply decreased, more due to the way that the crisis has been managed than because the Spanish citizens do not want to remain in the EU.
In addition to this anti-European feeling, in Spain, as in the majority of Europe, the electoral campaigns leading up to May 25 haven’t centred around European policies and politics, but rather around national issues, and they have helped to expose the power balance of the political parties in the national electorate regarding the future local, regional or national elections, depending on the state. Unfortunately, Spain has not been the exception.
A new political scenario after the elections
The composition of the new delegation of MEPs from Spain in the European Parliament for the next five-year term differs considerably from those who moved to Brussels in 2009. The largest difference is the loss of seats of the two majority parties, which have represented the traditional Spanish bipartisanship during the last 30 years. The Partido Popular (PP) lost more than 2.5 million votes in comparison to the elections of 2009, and they went from 24 seats to only 16. On the other side, the Partido Obrero Socialista Español (PSOE) lost a similar amount of votes, approximately 2.5 votes and 9 seats, taking them from 23 down to 14. If we analyse both parties together, as representatives of the management and the Spanish government from the general elections of 1982, we can talk about the first big defeat of the bipartisanship. Between them, both parties lost the confidence of more than 5 million electors and 17 MEPs, and saw a decrease in their electoral support from 80.9% in 2009 to 49.06% in 2014.
Another big difference is the quantity of electoral lists that obtained representation in the European Parliament in 2014, from six electoral lists in 2009, it will now be representatives from 10 different lists. It has to be emphasised that this is the fruit of the unique electoral circumscription and the lack of a percentage barrier, which make the EP elections the most proportional and representative. But, it is also noticeable that despite the big loss of MEPs of the PP and PSOE, the other eight lists sum a total of 24 MEPs, compared to the 30 MEPs obtained by the two big parties.
In contrast to the electoral results in other EU member states, the results of the elections have not reflected a tendency of the Spanish society to support far-right parties and the vast increase of criticism of the EU was demonstrated by the boom of the radical left parties.
The radical left parties have been the surprise of these elections. The electoral list of Izquierda Plural (Plural Left) that in 2009 had two seats, one for the GUE and the other for the Green European Party, in 2014 obtained six seats, five for the GUE and the traditional seat of Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds for the European Greens. This list increased by almost 1 million its votes in comparison to its last results in the European elections. But, the electoral shock has been the eruption of the EU-critical and anti-systemic left party Podemos, which after just three months of existence had obtained the support of more than 1.2 million votes, with a ground-breaking discourse criticising the political caste and the stagnant political establishment, which has had a huge presence in the media, taking advantage of the communicative qualities of its leader Pablo Iglesias. Podemos got five MEPs, who will join the GUE.
On the other hand, these elections demonstrate a meaningful increase of the electoral vote to the liberal parties. UPyD wins three more seats in comparison to 2009, and it gains in total four seats. The regionalist parties CdC and PNV, which formed together an electoral list, win three seats as in the last elections, and Ciudadanos obtains its first seat. These eight seats totalled by these parties will be a part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament.
Finally, the regionalist parties with self-government aspirations have increased their electoral support. All of them sum four seats, in three different electoral lists, mainly for the self-determination conflict that is currently taking place in Catalonia. And for that, it is noticeable, that the main issues that the electoral campaign has focused on in the Catalonian Autonomous Region were really different to those in the rest of Spain. Looking to the future referendum on the independence of Catalonia to be convened November 9, the main issue in the campaign was the self-determination process. And for the first time since the end of the dictatorship, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) was the most supported political force among the Catalan citizens, a remarkable development given the flagship cause of its campaign was the proclamation of Catalonia as a new independent State.
Equo: a half victory
The 2014 elections to the European Parliament have been an historical opportunity for a Spanish Green Party campaigning across the entire country and managing to obtain good electoral results, allowing the Green European Party to win the first Spanish MEP not coming from the Catalan Greens. And in a way, we can say that the results have been positive by the fact that the coalition Primavera Europea, formed by Equo, Coalició Compromís (regionalist party from the Autonomous Region of Valencia) and Chunta Aragonesista (regionalist party from the Autonomous Region of Aragon) among other parties obtained one MEP. However, the number of voters who gave support to Primavera Europea was somewhat weak. From the 10 electoral lists with representatives in the EP, Primavera Europea won the least votes, with almost 300,000 votes and 1.91% of the overall turnout. And we have to take into consideration that almost 140,000 votes came from the Autonomous Region of Valencia, where the main party of the coalition was Coalició Compromís, and in the rest of the State, Primavera Europea obtained slightly more than 150,000 votes.
This result of Primavera Europea is translated in a distribution of the EP seat between Coalició Compromís, whose leader will occupy the seat for 28 months in the EP in the European Free Alliance, and Equo, whose leading candidate will be MEP for 32 months in the second part of the legislature and who will join the Green European Party.
Catalonia: Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds ecosocialism obtains good results
Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV), a member of the European Green Party, obtained very good results if we compare them with the results of 2009. From the 6.08% of the last elections, it stabilised at 10.3%, which promotes them from the 5th to the 4th electoral force in Catalonia. This increase in the number of the votes doesn’t imply an increment of a number of seats due that formed part of the Izquierda Plural electoral lists, and the fact that the leading candidate was the third one of this electoral list. However, these results allow ICV to guarantee its seat, which will be among the Greens/EFA parliamentary group. These results should be regarded as very positive overall, taking into consideration that the main issue on which the European campaign was centred in Catalonia was the upcoming independence referendum.