Spanish Political Party System at the Crossroads

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-4-71-80

S. Khenkin (,
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow 119454, Russian Federation;
Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences (INION RAS), 51/21, Nakhimovskii Prosp., Moscow 117418, Russian Federation

Abstract. The Spanish party system experienced a radical transformation over the years of global crisis. Bipartidism has been dominating in political life for about 30 years. Two political parties – center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and the People’s Party (PP) replaced each other in power significantly outrunning all other parties in the extent of influence. The existing practice helped to maintain the societal stability and governability. The trend has changed in the latest years as the cumulative potential of both parties has decreased. The December 2015 parliamentary elections were an electoral “earthquake”. Both parties received 50.7% of the vote, what was one third less than in 2011 (74.3%). A crisis of confidence in political parties is revealed not only through electoral evaluation of their policies. A substantial societal protest potential accumulated in the country and was expressed by two new political parties – Podemos and Ciudadanos – which over a short period of time have noticeably surpassed the PP and PSOE ending the bipartidism. At the same time, the vices of all parties are often reproduced in the performance of the new ones. For example, Podemos claiming the intention to avoid bureaucratism turns into a centralized party resembling the Caudillo-style party traditional for Spain. After December 2015 elections, the balance of forces was such that the formation of a new government was impossible without an agreement between four main parties. Since party leaders prioritized narrow party interests, ambitions and electoral calculations over the national ones, they failed to form the government. The June 2016 extraordinary elections were the result. The minority government of the Popular Party was formed only after the elections. It became possible due to the change of the PSOE stance, which used to be in firm opposition but abstained in a confidence vote to PP leader Mariano Rajoy. PSOE itself faced an acute crisis. The change from the two-party system to a multiparty one leads to a radical change in the format and rhetoric of the Spanish politics. An insufficiently developed culture of dialogue and compromise becomes an imperative for societal governability. All politicians despite their ideological and political orientations have to withstand a serious psychological test, learn to survive in new conditions and agree with each other. The time of political turmoil has come to Spain. Real multiparty system is better adapted to the country’s difficult and dynamic reality. But it increases multiple political risks and makes development prospects less certain and predictable. 

Keywords: Spain, People’s Party, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Podemos, Ciudadanos, Indignant Movement, parliamentary elections, electorate 


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For citation:
Khenkin S. Spanish Political Party System at the Crossroads. World Eсonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, no. 4, pp. 71-80.

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