Caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may have a chance to end Spain’s nine-month political impasse and avoid an unprecedented third election after regional ballots in the north of the country next week clarify the state of play. Since Rajoy lost a second confidence vote on Sept. 2, Spanish politicians have been back in campaign mode, fighting their own corners ahead of ballots in the Basque region and Galicia on Sunday. Once those votes are counted, they might be ready to cut a deal. The Basque Nationalist Party is likely to be in the hot seat. They have five lawmakers in the national legislature and are on track to win the most votes in their regional ballot but polls suggest they may need help from Rajoy’s People’s Party to govern. That would open up the possibility of deal to help keep Rajoy in power in exchange for support in the Basque assembly. The Basques could, in theory, take Rajoy to exactly half the votes in the 350-seat legislature, leaving him just one abstention short of victory.
“The Basque and Galician elections could give Rajoy a chance,” said Antonio Barroso, a London-base political analyst at Teneo Intelligence. “The Basque Nationalists could in the end drop the opposition to Rajoy they’ve maintained during the campaign, while a bad result for the Socialists in both regions could trigger a revolt within the party and change their stance toward Rajoy.”
Spanish politicians have been struggling to forge a new administration since Rajoy lost his majority in December. Discontent at the economic crisis and a wave of corruption turned many voters toward new parties — the anti-establishment group Podemos and the liberals of Ciudadanos — and with nationalist groups like the Basques and Catalans holding onto another handful of seats, no one has been able to form a majority, even after a repeat vote on June 26.