May 17, 2016
Could the Podemos-led alliance surpass the PSOE?
We think it is possible that the PSOE, Spain's socialist party, is on its way to being surpassed by the Podemos and United Left (IU) alliance, both in terms of votes and seats. Podemos and IU have recently agreed to run under the joint list of Unidos Podemos ("united we can") in the June 26 general election. So far, the polls conducted in May put the UP ahead of the PSOE in votes though not in seats, but the seat lead of the PSOE is only slight. To get a feel for the state of the race, we find the following map from election news portal electomania useful. UP is ahead in the regions where there are regional languages other than Spanish, plus a majority of the provincial capitals including the most populated except for Sevilla in Andalusia in the South. UP winning in the most populated provinces and the PSOE in the largest number of less populated provinces explains that UP would be ahead in votes but not in seats.
Another feature of the polls is that they tend to give PSOE + UP about the same number of seats the parties got at the last election, slightly over 160 while a parliamentary majority requires 175. Polls give the centre right parties PP + Ciudadanos a few more seats, but usually short of 170. So, Spain is headed for the same arithmetically possible coalitions as in the previous elections. Another feature of the polls is that PP and UP have been rising steadily in the poll averages since the end of March, with PSOE and Ciudadanos declining. This bears out the conventional wisdom that repeat elections polarise the vote.
The prospect of a Podemos-led alliance becoming the leading party of the left has both the PSOE and PP attacking UP as a "communist" and "radical" alliance. The PSOE's lead economic advisor Jordi Sevilla, a former minister who took a leading role in the technical teams negotiating a government in the past few months, has ruled out an alliance with Podemos after the June election under any circumstances.
But, even if UP managed to win the election, their joint programme is less threatening to the status quo as one might think. This at least is the conclusion of Bill Mitchell. He notes that Podemos, for all its anti-establishment rhetoric, has attempted to distance itself from the traditional left and to win over the centre by presenting itself as a 'new Keynesian' party - with an economic programme of investment, social rights and redistribution - in the framework of the European Union. IU had been more radical, with its Communist roots, and left euroscepticism, but in the 50-point government programme agreed with Podemos they abandon their most radical positions.
Mitchell notes that IU used to run on a platform including a limited job guarantee, but has given this up in favour of Podemos' preferred universal basic income proposal. Also, the 50-point programme includes a new deficit reduction path without ultimately challenging the logic of austerity.
"The problem is that this looks to be going down the Syriza path. Some sort of unbridled optimism that Spain is too big to be treated badly as it renegotiates the SGP etc. Syriza was quickly crushed because it had no Plan B – no exit threat – not because it was small. The new Podemos-IU, similarly, has no exit threat. Indeed, Podemos is pro-Euro and IU have been dragged along for the ride – perhaps hoping to sort things out later. No threat – no power."