Spain’s Andalusia vote sets stage for national upheaval

The Spanish Socialist party PSOE wins the regional election in Andalusia but anti-austerity party Podemos takes roots in Spanish local politics.

SEVILLE, SPAIN (MARCH 22, 2015) (REUTERS) – Leftist newcomer Podemos made spectacular inroads in elections in the Spanish region of Andalusia on Sunday (March 22), with the vote splitting over the political spectrum in a foretaste of the upheaval likely in national elections before the year-end.

The vote showed the anti-austerity sentiment that brought Syriza to power in Greece has now taken root in Spain, where one in four workers is unemployed, and also ended the two-party system built when the Franco dictatorship ended in the 1970s.

While Spain is emerging from the euro-zone debt crisis as one of Europe’s fastest growing economies, a campaign by the ruling People’s Party (PP), and to a lesser extent the Socialists, to show that newly minted political alternatives are dangerous for the recovery did little to limit their magnetism.

“The two traditional big forces have fallen by 17 seats. That means 20 points. And Podemos have won 15. We have gone from zero to 15. We are the protagonists of the change, of the creation of new alternatives: new down to earth alternatives that will meet the urgent needs of the majority of Andalusians,” said Teresa Rodriguez, who led the Podemos campaign in Andalusia.

“We have taken a big step. And we are going to make it happen, that is for sure. We can take more than the 15 steps that every seat in the parliament can give us. We are going to enter Parliament to give people what they need. That is our responsibility,” she added.

Podemos, only a year old, is led by the charismatic, pony-tailed Pablo Iglesias. The party unexpectedly won five seats in last May’s European elections and has mainly gathered votes on the left of the spectrum. On Monday, the party took 15 seats.

Although the two dominant parties, the Socialists and the PP, came first and second in the vote, they lost support from the last election in 2012.

The Socialist party (PSOE) won 47 seats out of 109 in the regional parliament, while the PP suffered heavy losses to take second place with 33 seats.

Results show the Socialists will need the support of other parties to govern in Andalusia, a tricky task given that rivals may worry that deals reached there could damage them in elections elsewhere in Spain later this year.

The regional PSOE leader Susana Diaz said the vote showed the new political changes Spain is experiencing.

“This is a historic and indisputable victory. I am very pleased and I feel very responsible regarding what lays ahead in this land. In the second place the new Andalusian parliament is a clear representation of the variety that exists now in our society and represents us all. All our differences, opinions and ideas with which we represent all the citizens of this region. And in the third place, I hope this new time in the Andalusian parliament will help us all and make everything better for all of us,” she said in a news conference.

Recently, in a campaign meeting prior to the election, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his party was not aiming for a joint government.

“We are not here to crticise socialists. We are not here to play as a hinge for anyone. We are not here to pact with others. We are here to rule. In the bad times, the complicated times. That is when we must stay calm, determined and propose courageous and clear ideas.”

The PP and the Socialists who have dominated power nationally for decades have seen support plummet in national opinion polls following a deep economic and political crisis.