The Spanish General Election: Will Another Austerity Government Bite the Dust?


After the Greek popular uprising against austerity which brought the Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza, convincingly to power first in January 2015 followed by another striking victory in the snap election eight months later and the fall of Portugal’s new centre-right government after only twelve days, all eyes in Europe are now on Spain whose citizens will go to the polls on 20 December. Will Rajoy’s conservative government be the third southern ‘austerity government’ to be ousted from power within a year? Of course, Spain is different from Greece and Portugal. First of all, it is bigger, it used to be the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, a role model for economic boom and, secondly, there is the Catalan question seemingly looming over everything. But much of what has been going on sounds familiar: the depressing social effects of austerity with a staggering youth unemployment of 49.2% as a sad ‘highlight’ or the corruption scandals with as a result a general loss of faith in established political parties. Yet, with slightly more than a month to go to the election, the polls show an unexpected picture: first of all, Podemos, the new left-wing party seen as Syriza’s sister party and for a long time regarded as a serious runner-up, is not doing well and has fallen in the polls to 10%. The other new party, Ciudadanos, centre-left or centre-right depending on the eyes of the beholder, also explicitly pro-European, is closing on the two traditional parties, the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE). As no party is close to an overall majority, a coalition will be necessary. In contrast to the Portuguese situation, a left-wing coalition with PSOE, Podemos and the United Left looks impossible – leaving an ‘establishment coalition’ between the two traditional parties PP and PSOE or a centre-right coalition (PP and Ciudadanos or PSOE and Ciudadanos) as the likely options. What will decide this election: the Catalan question, austerity, corruption scandals, the migration crisis, the terrorist threat? Will the end of this year bring about the end of Spain as we know it as some fear and many in Catalonia hope? What will the south of Europe look like after 20 December and what does this mean for the European Union?

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Product details
Date of Publication
January 2016
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
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All rights reserved
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