28 May, 2023 @ 23:43
5 mins read

Spain shifts to the right at 2023 local elections

PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo
© Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire)

THE CONSERVATIVE Popular Party was the big winner at Sunday’s regional and local elections, at which 12 of Spain’s regions and more than 8,000 local councils were up for grabs. 

As was predicted by the polls, voters shifted toward the right at the cost of not just the Socialist Party, but also new parties such as Citizens (Ciudadanos) and Podemos, both of which emerged in the 2010s and shook up Spain’s traditional two-party system. 

As early as 10.20pm, just 20 minutes after the results started to come in, sources from the PP were telling reporters that the ‘blue wave, the very blue wave’ represented a ‘total change of cycle’ and spoke of a ‘knock out’ for the Socialist Party Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. 

In the municipal races, the PP increased its share of the vote from 23% in 2019 to 32%, while the Socialist Party (PSOE) fell from 29% in 2019 to 28%. Far-right Vox, meanwhile, jumped from 4% to 7%.

In the regions, the PP won back six of the 10 regions held by the Socialists but without a majority in Valencia, Cantabria, the Balearic Islands, Aragon and Extremadura. Vox will hold the key to forming a governing deal in those areas.

Below are the results in the main municipal and regional races.

Regional results

Madrid

The Popular Party took an absolute majority in the Madrid region, meaning that current premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso will stay for another term and will not need to depend on Vox to form a government or pass legislation. Podemos lost the 10 seats it had won at the 2019 polls and will have no representation in the Madrid assembly. Ciudadanos also failed to win a seat.

Valencia

The conservative Popular Party also wrested control of the Valencia region from the left, winning 40 seats – 21 more than in 2019. The gains were at the cost of Ciudadanos, which lost all of its 18 seats. The PP candidate for premier, Carlos Mazon, has announced that he will seek to govern, despite falling short of the 50-seat majority needed to form a government. Vox, however, won 13 seats on Sunday, three more than it secured in 2019, so will hold the key to power.

The PP was also victorious in Aragon and the Balearic Islands. But it will need the support of Vox if it is to form governments in these regions, having fallen short of a majority.

The PP also took Murcia, albeit without a majority. An abstention by Vox will avoid the need for a coalition.

The Socialists, meanwhile, managed to hang on to power in Castilla-La Mancha and Asturias.

In Navarre, the regional conservative Navarrese People’s Union (UPN) took the most seats, but will not be able to form a government. The most likely scenario is for the Socialist Party candidate Maria Chivite to emerge as premier once more.

And in the Canary Islands, the Socialists lost three seats, going from 22 to 19, while the PP gained the same number, improving its presence from 10 to 13. The Canaries Coalition held steady, with 17 seats. Podemos, meanwhile, lost its four seats and all representation in the chamber. A deal will have to be done between several different parties to secure the majority of 31 seats.

Municipal results

Madrid 

The Popular Party won an absolute majority in the Spanish capital, with 29 of the 57 seats. That means that Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida has been reelected as mayor. Centre-right Ciudadanos lost all of its seats, with leftist Mas Madrid coming second with 12, the Socialists third with 11 and Vox with five.  

Barcelona

The big story in the Catalan capital was the victory of Together for Catalunya (Junts per Catalunya), a pro-independence party that was founded by former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, who is still living in self-imposed exile to avoid arrest for his role in the 2017 independence drive. 

The party’s candidate, Xavier Trias, won 11 seats, with the Socialists second with 10, and current mayor Ada Colau taking nine. 

With no party achieving a majority, deals will have to be done, but the result means that current mayor, activist-turned-politician Ada Colau, will have to step down after eight years in the role. 

Vox also managed to win two seats, meaning the far-right party is entering Barcelona City Hall for the first time. 

Valencia

The PP also managed to win the race for Valencia City Hall, taking 13 seats but falling short of an absolute majority of 17. Vox, meanwhile, took four seats, meaning that a majority is possible if the two parties can do a deal. Of the left-wing parties, Compromis took nine seats and the Socialists seven. The Valencian branch of Unidas Podemos failed to take a single seat. 

Seville

The PP also managed to win Seville City Hall from the Socialists, with 14 councillors – two short of an absolute majority. Vox took three seats, meaning that a deal is possible. The Socialists, meanwhile, managed 12 seats while Con Andalusia took two. 

Alicante

The incumbent PP mayor of Alicante, Luis Barcala, has managed to hold onto his position, and will be able to govern without the support of Vox. The far-right group did, however, manage to go from two seats to four in the council. 

Costa del Sol

The Popular Party won Málaga City Hall, with Ciudadanos disappearing from the assembly. Francisco de la Torre, who is aged 80, will now assume his seventh mandate as mayor.

In Marbella, PP mayor Angeles Muñoz went from 14 councillors to 13, meaning she has lost her absolute majority in the 27-seat chamber. A deal with Vox, however, who won two seats, will keep her in power. 

In Estepona, PP mayor Jose Maria Garcia managed to win reelection, while the conservative party also won in Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Torremolinos, Rincon de la Victoria, Velez-Malaga and Nerja. 

Granada

The PP won an absolute majority in the Andalusian city, with 15 seats. The Socialists took 10 and Vox two, with Ciudadanos and Adelante failing to take a single seat.

Almeria

The PP held on to the local council in Almeria and managed an absolute majority, with 15 seats. The Socialists took seven, Vox four and Con Andalucia one. Both Ciudadanos and Unidas Podemos lost all of their seats.

A national fight

The polls had predicted that the PP would make major gains, and the election campaign often focused more on national issues and politics than local ones. 

Both PP national leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo and the Madrid premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso focused much of their discourse on EH Bildu, the former political wing of the now-defunct Basque terrorist group ETA. 

During the campaign, a victims’ group revealed that EH Bildu had fielded 44 candidates for the elections who were convicted ETA terrorists, including seven who had been convicted for murder during the groups decades-long violent campaign for an independent Basque Country. 

The situation put Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a complicated position, given that EH Bildu is one of the political parties that has supported the coalition government in Congress and helped it pass legislation with its votes. 

The result will now bolster the PP ahead of the general election due to be held in December of this year. Polls, however, suggest that no party will win a clear majority in Congress at that vote, meaning that the PP is likely to have to do a deal with Vox if it is to form a government.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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