Spain heads to the polls on Sunday for regional elections in 13 of the country’s 17 autonomous communities (Andalusia, Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque Country having separate electoral cycles), for municipal elections to elect councillors on all 8,116 local councils, and for votes in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The votes will be a useful prequel to a general election that will be called later this year. Since the last election in 2011, Spain’s political landscape has changed dramatically. The country’s two main parties, the centre-right People’s Party (PP) and the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), traditionally win a combined 75-80% of the vote. They are now polling below 50%. At the European Parliament elections last year they won 49.1% of the vote compared with 80.9% in 2009.
The financial crisis, economic hardship and a series of political scandals have fuelled the emergence of new political forces and left the electorate fragmented like never before.
The local and regional elections will serve not only to measure the state of the governing PP and the opposition PSOE but, just as critically, assess at the ballot box the strength of the parties that have most benefitted from the collapse of the big two: Podemos – a leftwing, anti-austerity party, which was founded in 2014, won five seats in the EU elections a few months later, and is now polling on 18.5% (and has even topped several surveys) – and the liberal Ciudadanos.