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Opinion

Do the results of the Andalusian elections mark the beginning of a change of political cycle in Spain?

andalucia elecciones

On 19 June last, Andalusia held a momentous regional election in which the predictions of the opinion polls of a victory for the PP were confirmed, although they were exceeded by the unexpected obtaining of an absolute majority. You will allow me, dear readers, as an "Andalusian from the ninth province" - who was born in Granada, studied at school in Almería and Cádiz and at university in Seville, and now lives in Madrid - to make a personal assessment of these elections. From a physical - but not an emotional - distance, I have followed with interest the development of events in my homeland and, in an article on "Voces de muerte se oyeron cerca del Guadalquivir" - published in 2012 in "Voz Pópuli" - I recorded my frustration at the inability of Javier Arenas' PP to gain access to the Government of the Junta despite having won the elections, with a paraphrase of the famous poem by Federico García Lorca:

"I don't want to see her! Tell the moon to come, I don't want to see the blood of Andalusia on the sand, don't tell me to see it! I don't want to feel the trickle with less and less force". The alternation in power required by democratic hygiene did not come about because of the PSOEE-IU alliance of losers. However, the change paradoxically took place six years later when the PP obtained its worst results and only 26 deputies, and the PSOE - once again winner of the elections - was displaced from the Palace of San Telmo, when Juan Manuel Moreno became president of the Community with the votes of Ciudadanos and Vox. In 2022, Andalusians have confirmed the shift to the right by granting the PP an absolute majority.

Unprecedented success for the PP

The Andalusian people have shown signs of responsibility and -despite the temptation of the beach in a sultry June- have turned out to vote with a turnout of 58.36% -similar to that of 2018- and opted for moderation and pragmatism, granting an absolute majority to Moreno, who will be able to govern without submitting to the blackmail of Vox. The PP obtained 1,582,299 votes -43.13%- and 58 seats, and won in all eight provinces, including hitherto impregnable socialist strongholds such as Seville and its province -where it currently only governs in 10 of its 105 municipalities-, and whose urban belt -Dos Hermanas, Camas, Alcalá de Guadaira and San Juan de Aznalfarache- has been tinged blue with the sole exception of La Rinconada. The 37.28% victory against the PSOE's 26.33% in the emblematic town of Nazareth - socialist since 1978 and which has maintained Francisco Toscano as mayor for 39 years - is highly significant, as it was precisely in this town where a destitute Pedro Sánchez rose like a phoenix from the ashes after his traumatic expulsion from the general secretariat and set out to conquer the party and the government. Quoting José Meneses' song "Ocho voces claman fuerte, ocho pueblos cantan alto, ocho provincias unidas, dan a Dios un sobresalto", Raúl del Pozo said that the PP's victory over the entire left in the socialist camp is historic news. I don't know if it has shocked the celestial heights, but it has shocked the Moncloa, although Sánchez denies it by sticking his head in the sand like an ostrich.

Lucía Méndez has commented that chance has been prodigal with Moreno and she is right. Without having an outstanding political personality and a novice in the electoral arena, he was on the verge of being disqualified from the presidential candidacy in 2018 and obtained the worst results of the PP with only 26 MPs, but he was able to gain access to the government thanks to the support of Cs and Vox. Now the tables have turned and he has achieved his party's best results with an absolute majority of 58 MPs. Moreno has received the prize for rigorous management, with the invaluable collaboration of Juan Marín and the Cs councillors, without ideological stridency and intemperance. As the director of "El Mundo", Joaquín Manso, has pointed out, in four years, Moreno has turned around the regime of resignation, clientelism and corruption installed in the Junta for 36 years and - although he has not produced an economic miracle - he has provoked in Andalusians a sense of sanity, stability and modernity, which has translated into a reduction in taxes, a decrease in bureaucracy and an increase in dynamism and entrepreneurship in the region. Some Andalusians who do not support the PP have rallied around him as a "safe haven" and in the expectation of a better performance from his government.

According to Ignacio Camacho in "ABC", Moreno represents the triumph of normality and realism, the epitome of the sensible ruler on the basis of being routine, before which the dialectic of civil confrontation has crashed, of inclusive and pragmatic management, which has restored the PP to its status as an eclectic party. "Inclusive, responsible, cross-cutting management with autonomist touches without fanfare or stridency, which has made its way to dispel the prejudices that have weighed on the right for decades". The president of the Andalusian PP has a clear path to continue developing this successful policy on his own.

PSOE's unmitigated failure

In Manuel Mostaza's opinion, for decades it has been a dogma of our political science that the left in general and socialism in particular have predominated in Andalusia. Felipe González, Alfonso Guerra and the "tortilla clan" transformed the historic PSOE into a social democratic party and established their government in Andalusia, which became the party's vote granary and a farmhouse, where the old caciques were replaced by socialist leaders, The ERE case, which revealed the institutionalisation of corruption in the regional government for too many years, has hardly affected the PSOE-A's electoral power. It has been other factors - such as Sánchez's pacts with the enemies of Spain to stay in power - that have provoked the disaffection of Andalusians towards social-sanchism.

The PSOE has systematically disqualified the right-wing opposition as "facha" and neo-Francoist. This attitude has been extended lately by merging the traditional right of the PP and the "ultra-right" of Vox into a single unit, and has tried to mobilise its electorate with the threat posed by Vox to democracy. The PSOE's peerless deputy secretary general, Adriana Lastra, claimed that the socialists would safeguard the public rights and freedoms that the PP was going to dismantle. The PSOE has called for a "useful vote" to stop the far-right, but this time the stratagem has not worked, because 19% of the socialist electorate has opted for the PP as the best useful vote to halt the progress of Vox. The PSOE won 883,625 votes in its former stronghold - its worst result in history -, losing 197,824 votes compared to the previous year.

197,824 votes in relation to the 2018 elections, fallen below the psychological line of one million votes, and dropped from the 33 seats won by Susana Díaz to 30 - its lowest share since then. Since 2004, the party has lost 1.3 million votes and 31 seats.

It has run a disastrous campaign following the directives of Sánchez, who has been personally involved in the elections along with his entire government. As Gorka Maneiro has pointed out, from the beginning he came out as a loser, more concerned with what others were doing than with his own programme. By urging the PP to make a statement on who he intended to govern with, he took his victory for granted. The only thing he was hoping for was that the PP would not get a sufficient majority and would have to depend on Vox, which would give him a pretext to attack the right-wing conjunction. Andalusians have not forgiven Sánchez for his support to govern those who want to break it, the pardons for the seditious who carried out a coup d'état, the abandonment of the Catalan constitutionalists, his concessions to the PNV, the extremism of Podemos and - above all - the parliamentary agreements with, and the whitewashing of, Bildu. Andalusia is particularly sensitive to ETA terrorism - which Bildu has not only not condemned, but condoned - because it has suffered in its own flesh, as shown by the assassinations of the Chief Prosecutor of the High Court of Justice, Luis Portero, and the Jiménez-Becerril couple.

Sánchez is a master in the art of blaming others for his mistakes, but in this case it will be difficult for him to pin the blame on Juan Espadas, whom he chose to get rid of Susana Díaz. His "doberwoman" Lastra has even accused the latter of failure because - by not withdrawing when she should have done so - she did not give Espadas enough time to sharpen his attributes. The deputy secretary general claimed that - because socialist voters were happy with the successes of Sánchez's government - they had been demobilised in the Andalusian elections, but that this would not be the case in the general elections. She also noted that Moreno had won the elections thanks to the huge sums of money from the Covid State Fund that Sánchez had generously donated to Andalusia.

Maneiro pointed out in his article in "Voz Pópuli" on "Sánchez, culpable" that in Andalusia what had to happen and what the PSOE deserved to happen has happened, and the causes of this were none other than the decisions taken by Sánchez, the economic situation, the poor opposition in Andalusia, a disastrous election campaign, and a candidate without leadership and defeated beforehand. As "El Mundo" editorialised, Sánchez's "bodyguard" has a very serious problem if it is incapable of understanding that the majority of Andalusians - and the rest of Spaniards - "censure a way of governing based, for agonising survival, on exploiting polarisation, and which displaces general interests in favour of the voracious demands of anti-system parties that seek to undermine our model of coexistence and the democratic system of rights and freedoms that emanates from the Constitution". Given the burden that Sánchez represents for the socialist acronym if he were to become entrenched in running out the legislature, the effects could be devastating for his party in next year's regional and municipal elections. "Instead of cheating alone, if the PSOE wants to stop the haemorrhaging of voters, it must start by returning to being a party that voters recognise, the opposite of what is happening now".

The problem - according to Javier Redondo - is that in Andalusia, Sánchez is today's PSOE - even if yesterday's PSOE keeps it oxygenated - and that party includes his fellow travellers. The election results are the beginning of internal contestation, Sánchez's aura is extinguished and his image is damaging the brand.

For Raúl del Pozo, even if Sánchez's name did not appear on the ballot paper, the clear defeat of the PSOE in Andalusia makes it almost impossible for him to reach 2023 unscathed, after five electoral failures and the catastrophe in his land of promise. Jorge Bustos has stated that the Andalusians have killed the PSOE, or maybe they have only raised the corpse that Sanchismo was leaving behind. According to Carlos Mármol, the Andalusian socialists have lost more than just an election, as they have placed a symbolic tombstone over their sentimental history. The Andalusian omen is dark because, without solid ground in the South, Sánchez's majority becomes virtual. "The 19-J raises the spectre of an end of an era among the socialists, establishing a clear boundary between their past - the deeds of their primitive patriarchs - and their current heirs, who have not known how to preserve it".

Vox's irrelevance despite modest progress

Vox obtained 493,909 votes and 14 seats -two more than in 2018-, but, if its votes were decisive then to invest Moreno as president of the Junta, they are now irrelevant in the face of the PP's absolute majority, which no longer needs it to govern. Despite its progress, it has been left with a bad taste in its mouth and a feeling of failure, because it had set itself excessively ambitious goals that it has not achieved, since its aim was to be instrumental in facilitating Moreno's government and enter it through the front door, replacing the defunct Cs. Santiago Abascal - who has been intensely involved in the elections - sent one of the party's heavyweights to Andalusia, the excellent MP Macarena Olona, who has run a campaign that could clearly be improved. Vox has sinned of arrogance, aggressiveness, catastrophism and overconfidence, and provocatively exposed its most unpresentable policies on immigration, distribution of competences or preconciliar Christianity. The unfortunate influence of the far-right Italian MP Giorgia Meloni, who has been actively involved in the campaign, has been noticeable. As "El Mundo" has pointed out, "her systematic mockery of moderation, as if it entailed a betrayal of some supposed essence of which Vox would be the depositary, has been contested by the Andalusians".

Olona has run an unpleasant and strategically unhinged campaign, unorthodox and folkloric in which - in the opinion of Jorge Bustos - there was no room for one more cliché, and which is unbearable for the Andalusians. It reminded me of the case of a colleague who ran as a cunero candidate for a deputy for Granada and - in order to be liked by his electorate - presented himself in the city wearing a wide-brimmed Cordovan hat. As Santiago González has observed, Vox has made strategic errors, such as posing the maximum confrontation with the party with which it intended to co-govern. In the first debate between the candidates on TVE, Olona was provocative and attracted the reaction of the three left-wing candidates, which meant that Moreno was largely spared the criticism that should have been directed at him, and even defended the performance of the PP-Cs coalition government. However, in the second debate on Canal Sur, she lashed out at Moreno, warning him that, if he needed a single vote, Vox would not give it to him if he did not enter the government with her as vice-president. In her delusions of grandeur, she went so far as to ask Moreno if he would be willing to be vice-president in a Vox government. From that moment on - according to Manso - a kind of second round took place, which accelerated the transfer of socialist voters to the PP.

Although she has paid lip service to the idea that she would remain in Andalusia, to which she would devote herself body and soul, Olona has not given up her seat in Congress and, when asked about it, she pompously replied that, although she was a soldier, she was above all a child of God and could not say for sure what his plans would be (?). In the highly doubtful event that she left Congress, Vox would have made a terrible deal because it would have lost its most eloquent speaker, who would go from being a government whip to leading an irrelevant political life in the Andalusian Parliament. For Vox - whose bet was to become the centre of national politics - obtaining two seats has been - in Mármol's opinion - a victory without wings, which, like swallows, does not make summer.

Failure of parties to the left of the PSOE

The heir parties to Ps and IU - which had a solid foothold in Andalusia - have also had disastrous results. The space that Yolanda Díaz, a painterly Yolanda Díaz, intends to occupy was split by personal rivalries. The Por Andalucía party - which brought together IU, Ps, Más País, Equo and Alianza Verde - and was sponsored by the second vice-president could not agree on a candidate for the presidency, and Díaz imposed the candidacy of Inma Nieto and became actively involved in the election campaign. The results have been calamitous - the party itself has called it "electoral destruction" - as it has gone from 17 to 5 deputies.

Teresa Rodríguez - former secretary general of Ps in Andalusia, dismissed by Pablo Iglesias for not accepting his centralist leadership - broke away from the hodgepodge of acronyms and formed the Andalucía Adelante party, whose campaign has been boycotted by her former colleagues, who tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Rodríguez from participating in the televised debates. Despite lacking funds and structure, the party has won two seats, beating Por Andalucía in its home city of Cádiz, where it had the unconditional support of its partner, the "freaky" mayor, José María González a) "Kichi". Rodríguez boasts that his party is the only authentically Andalusian party, which does not depend on the dictates of the Madrid-based secretariats, and part of the left in Cádiz and Seville seems to have been sensitive to his arguments. The extreme left is once again merely testimonial in Andalusia.

The representation of the parties to the left of the PSOE - on which Yolanda Díaz intends to rely to launch a political platform to fill the vacuum left by the decline of the PSOE - has been reduced to 7 deputies. This Andalusian fiasco and the indictment for various common crimes of its main pillars in the Valencian Community - the resigned Mónica Oltra - and in Catalonia - the mayor Ada Colau - represent a serious handicap for the ambitious plans of the vice-president of the Government, who will begin her journey in July, carrying the weight of her sins like Sisyphus.

Ciudadanos' disappearance from the Andalusian map

The loss of 23 seats for Cs in the Andalusian Parliament has been the most negative note of the regional elections, for which Juan Marín and his councillors in the Junta are not to blame, as they have done an excellent job, which has been capitalised on exclusively by the PP. The blame comes from afar and must be focused on the national leadership of the party, from Albert Rivera to Inés Arrimadas. Cs was born in Catalonia to fight against the excesses of nationalism and had great success when Arrimadas won the regional elections, but did not take advantage of it, as she did not even present herself for investiture. She left Catalonia accompanying Rivera in his attempt to turn a regional party into a national one. They had an initial success followed by a failure, when Rivera wanted Cs to replace the PP as the main opposition party and refused to negotiate a coalition government with Sánchez.

It is one thing for Cs to be a centre-centre party that can make agreements on the right and on the left, and quite another that, once it has made an agreement with the former, it abandons its commitment to the latter and makes an agreement with the latter. This is what Cs did with its lamentable lack of loyalty to the PP in the governments of Murcia and the Community of Madrid, which led the party to disappear from these regions and to reduce its representation in the Parliament of Castilla/León to a minimum. Marín remained faithful to the pact with Moreno, but this has not helped him to avoid the useful vote and the shift of two thirds of his electorate to the PP, which has left him out of the Andalusian Parliament. Cs has entered a dynamic that could lead it to disappear from the national political scene.

The assessment of the Andalusian elections could be summarised as follows: 1) The Moreno government's centred and blunt position has allowed the PP to achieve an absolute majority; 2) the PSOE has suffered a considerable setback in its land of promise and both its regional leaders and the president of the government have been discredited; 3) Vox has obtained a Pyrrhic victory and has lost an opportunity to co-govern in Andalusia due to its erroneous strategy; 4) the extreme left has failed to win the elections; 4) the extreme left has failed due to its maximalism and internal divisions and has become a testimonial; 5) Cs has lost its representation in the Andalusian Parliament and is in danger of disappearing at the national level; 6) the moderation and centred positions that have prevailed in Andalusia over the ideological polarisation imposed by Sánchez's PSOE could be extended to the rest of Spain.

Incidence of the results of the Andalusian elections on the national level

For Manuel Arias, Andalusia is a region that has historically served as an egalitarian counterweight to the pressure exerted on national politics by centrifugal nationalist forces. Hence the political significance of what happens in this region should not be underestimated, and what has happened - in Rafa Larorre's opinion - has been not only the collapse of a political space of a party, but also the beginning of a profound and lasting sociological shift, in which the vote crosses the ideological customs imposed by the current government. Andalusia anticipates the underlying currents that mark the future of Spain, and the latest trends - according to Joaquín Manso - would place us on the threshold of an intense social and political cultural oscillation, "The bell of the change of cycle can be heard". Likewise, Carlos Mármol considered that what the Andalusians have voted for is a change of cycle in Spain and, perhaps, the beginning of the end of the PSOE and a brake on the possibility of Vox becoming an essential actor on the chessboard of political power. The results are relevant precisely because of Andalusia's unique capacity to anticipate changes of cycle. According to Juan Jesús González, some may think that the data cannot be extrapolated to the national level, but, if these are not real primaries, they are very similar.

The government tries in every way possible to highlight the differences between regional and general elections, and insists that it has not contested any elections in Andalusia, so the PSOE's defeat did not affect the executive, which maintains its roadmap of running out the legislature unchanged. He has maintained that governments can fall in general elections, but not in regional elections, overlooking the fact that the Second Republic was proclaimed after municipal elections and that Sánchez himself came to government, not in a general election, but in a fraudulent motion of censure. Sánchez's advisers insist that the Andalusian elections cannot be extrapolated, but that it is a good idea to try and make the best of it.

For Raúl Piña in "El Mundo", the scale of the socialist defeat in Andalusia makes it inevitable that the earthquake will be replicated in Madrid and, hence, the PSOE is trying to build a shield to shield Sánchez from the disaster suffered by his party and contain the shockwave. In the opinion of Jorge Bustos, however, the debacle of the left in Andalusia has been of such calibre that the seismic waves leaving the Andalusian epicentre are travelling along the A-4 on their way to Moncloa. "Sánchez is the one who has been gored and the deep incision is of interest to the regional, municipal and central fabric. Sanchismo is in the infirmary and does not have time or a favourable situation to face the electoral season of 2023 with guarantees". According to Isabel San Sebastián in "ABC", the failure of the Andalusian PSOE has sent a clear message to Sánchez, who has been mortally wounded, but Andalusia has thrown the first shovelful of earth on the political grave he dug in Madrid. But - since not everything is done - it is necessary to renew vigilance and prepare to defend the institutions tooth and nail, because the condemned man could blow them up in order to save himself. "Lacking principles and with little to lose, Pedro Sánchez is a desperate dead man walking.

Although Sánchez is going through difficult times, the bear's skin should not be sold before it has been caught, and the president is still alive and kicking. If there is one thing that characterises him - along with his determination to stay in power at any price - it is his resilience, as he showed when he took office after his expulsion from the PSOE's general secretariat. It will not be easy for him because it is impossible to satisfy such conflicting interests as those of the European institutions, which are asking him to cut public spending, and his partners in the Frankenstein government, who are demanding that he increase it, which would be squaring the circle. Sánchez will resist to the last of his faithful and - like Samson - is capable of blowing up the temple with him and all the Palestinians inside.

According to Manuel Mostaza, the winds of change at the national level are beginning to blow strongly and, in the collective imagination of Spaniards, it is engraved in fire that economic crises are best managed by the PP. Listen, Mr Sánchez, to the haruspices of the Moncloa and rectify, please, because you still have time. "Alea iacta est".