Time is running out for Spain’s left-wing parties currently locked in tense negotiations to form an electoral pact before the deadline – the night of Friday, June 9th – when any agreement must be registered. If they don’t, the left-wing vote will likely be split in July’s general election and the Spanish right will return to government.
The negotiations, which are descending into a series of bitter briefings and counter-briefings in the press, involve all the parties and groups to the left of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s ruling Socialists party (PSOE).
They are primarily between Sumar, the electoral platform of Spain’s Labour Minister Yolanda Díazand various other smaller, more regional leftist groups. Many of these groups have already agreed to run under the Sumar banner, but the main sticking point in negotiations seems to be between Sumar and the Podemos leadership, the junior coalition partner currently in government with PSOE.
It is unclear if Podemos leaders are willing to take a step aside and let someone else lead the Spanish left.
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Podemos suffered devastating electoral losses in last week’s regional electionslosing a large chunk of its deputies and even failing to gain representation in key battleground regions such as Madrid and Valencia.
Podemos ministers are among the most unpopular politicians in Spain, and the party’s brand has become increasingly toxic in recent months following legislation by Equality Minister Irene Montero that accidentally reduced (and even released) the sentences of hundreds of convicted sexual convicts. Some of the smaller parties incorporating into Sumar feel uncomfortable with the Podemos leadership playing a visible role in the election campaign.
Several regional Podemos figures have resigned or stated publicly that they believe Podemos should join forces with Sumar, but the national leadership seem (so far) reluctant to do so. As of Thursday afternoon, Ione Belarra (current Minister for Social Rights and Agenda 2030) announced she would consult party members.
If the two factions fail to reach an agreement before Friday night, the split left vote could have drastic consequences for July 23rd’s general election – a difference of as much as 12 or 15 seats.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Economy Yolanda Díaz is trying to unite the left under the Sumar brand. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP
Like in the local and regional elections, several smaller left-wing parties each running separately will likely split the left-wing vote and hand seats to the right – namely Spain’s far-right party Vox. This was most glaringly made clear in Huesca, where 4 different left-wing parties gained almost 20 percent of the vote between them, but as none of the candidates gained the minimum five percent threshold for representation, didn’t win a single seat.
With an agreement
Though polling suggests (as do the regional results) that the PP is very likely to win the most votes in the upcoming election, it is unclear if a right-wing coalition (between centre-right PP and far-right Vox) will win an overall majority or not. With the result likely to be incredibly tight, a difference of 10,11, or 12 (or more) seats could tip the balance and prevent a right-wing majority in the Spanish Congress.
According to projections from El Paísa unified Sumar (including Podemos) would win 14.7 percent of the vote and 41 seats. This will leave the PP and Vox with around 179 seats between them, very slightly over the minimum necessary for a majority (176), but barely so.
Given the unpredictability of election campaigns and leaving room for the margin of polling predictions, a united left-wing ticket would leave a right-wing majority (and perhaps even government) in the air.
Without an agreement
If Podemos and Sumar can’t come to an agreement, however, the left vote would be split. El País forecasts that Díaz’s Sumar would win 10.4 percent of the votes and 26 seats, and Podemos would be all but wiped off the electoral map, taking just 4.3 percent of the vote and a measly three seats, meaning that the difference in left-wing seats with or without a deal would be around 12 seats (41 with a deal versus 29 without).
Without an agreement, the split left vote would gift seats to the Spanish right and likely ensure a governable majority.
The main players
In the last few days, several smaller regional left-wing parties have joined Sumar and will head into the elections on a united front. The deadlock in negotiations centres around Podemos, and whether their national leadership is willing to take a lesser role in the left-wing campaign.
Podemos was born from the 15M anti-austerity movement and entered government as the junior coalition partner in 2019.
The party was led by former leader Pablo Iglesias, the controversial former Deputy Prime Minister who quit politics all together after unsuccessfully running for the Madrid Presidency in 2021.
He is married to Irene Montero, and despite retiring from politics and beginning a media career, it is widely accepted in Spanish political circles that the decision-making power rests with them rather than nominal leader Ione Belarra.
The recent regional elections were disastrous for Podemos, for many the confirmation of their increasing unpopularity. The mistakes made over the only yes is yes sexual consent law and generally perceived radical positions on gender, abortion and other sociocultural issues, have made the Podemos brand toxic.
Sumar is the newest party in Spanish politics and is actually more of a coalition group that seeks to keep 15 different left-wing parties under one banner. So far, Sumar has managed to incorporate most of the various factions on the Spanish left.
It was launched by Spain’s Deputy Minister and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz.
Sumar will likely campaign on Díaz’s personal popularity, present a different face to the Spanish far-left, a unifying message, and highlight the economic successes of the Sánchez government and Díaz’s role in them. Under the PSOE-Podemos coalition, Spain has achieved record employment levels and one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe.
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