Spanish PM thrashed in Andalusia regional election

·3-min read

Spain's main opposition Popular Party secured a landslide win in a regional election in Andalusia on Sunday, partial official results showed, dealing a blow to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ahead of a national vote expected at the end of 2023.

With 90 percent of the ballots counted, the conservative Popular Party (PP) won 57 seats in the 109-seat Andalusian regional parliament, which will allow it to govern alone in Spain's most populous region, a longtime Socialist stronghold.

That is more than double the 26 seats it won in the last election in 2018 when it ousted the Socialists from office from the southern region known for its white-walled villages and popular Costa del Sol beach resorts.

The Socialists captured 31 seats, the same number as at the last election in 2018 when they were ousted from power in Andalusia for the first time since the regional government was established in 1982.

This is the Socialists' third consecutive regional election loss to the PP after votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y Leon in February.

Sanchez's leftist coalition government has been struggling to deal with the economic fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has fuelled inflation worldwide, especially through increasing energy prices.

Losing in Andalusia would be a "severe blow" for the Socialists and would mean "Sanchez might face an uphill battle to get re-elected" next year, Antonio Barroso, an analyst at political consultancy Teneo, said before of the election.

"The PP seems to be gaining increasing momentum, and voter concerns about inflation might only make it more challenging for Sanchez to sell his government's achievements in the next legislative election," he added.

- Free from far right -

Spain's inflation rate hit 8.7 percent in May, its highest level in decades.

Sanchez's government has rolled out a swathe of measures to help consumers, including a subsidy on fuel prices at the pump, an increase in the minimum wage, direct grants to truck drivers and financial support for some farmers.

The results frees the PP from the need to govern in alliance with far-right party Vox, which won 14 seats.

Until now, Vox has supported the PP in Andalusia but from outside government.

But it had warned during the campaign that if the PP once again needed its support to govern, it would demand that it enters into government this time around.

The PP has governed Andalusia since 2018 in a coalition with smaller centre-right party Ciudadanos which did not win a single seat.

During the campaign the head of the PP in Andalusia, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, had urged voters to deliver him a "strong" government that is not "weighed down" by Vox.

- 'Sensible alternative' -

Vox emerged as a kingmaker in Andalusia in the region's last polls in December 2018, taking a surprise 12 seats in the first electoral success for the far right since Spain returned to democracy in the late 1970s.

It entered a regional government in Spain for the first time earlier this year in the central Castilla and Leon region.

Vox became the third-largest party in Spain national parliament following 2019 general election.

Any deal with Vox in Andalusia would have complicated efforts by the PP's new national leader, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, to project a more moderate image.

The PP has sought to present itself in Andalusia as a centrist "sensible alternative", University of Granada political science professor Oscar Garcia Luengo told AFP.

The strategy appears to have won the party the support of a slice of the electorate that cast their ballots for the Socialists in 2018, leaving them better placed to win nationally.

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