Thursday, March 23, 2023

Spain’s prime minister faces regional election test in Andalusia

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Seville (Spain) (AFP) – Andalusia voted on Sunday in an early regional election that the current conservative Popular Party is expected to win comfortably, a blow to Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez ahead of a national vote expected in late 2023.

More than six million people are eligible to vote in Spain’s most populous region, where extreme temperatures are expected to cool slightly after a week of scorching heat that officials feared will affect voting.

Polling stations opened at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and will close at 8:00 pm, with final results expected a few hours later.

Polls show that the Conservative Popular Party (PP) will win around 50 seats in the 109-seat Andalusian parliament, which is more than all left-wing parties combined.

It has controlled the southern region known for its white-walled villages and popular Costa del Sol beach resorts, in alliance with the smaller centre-right party Ciudadanos since 2018.

The Socialists are predicted to win around 33 seats, the same number as the last election in 2018 when they were ousted from power in Andalusia for the first time since the regional government was established in 1982.

A scandal over the misuse of public funds intended to fight unemployment was blamed for the defeat in the party’s long-standing stronghold, which is home to some 8.5 million people.

“All the social progress that has happened in Andalusia and Spain was started by socialists. Never by authority,” Sanchez told a final campaign rally in the region’s capital Seville on Friday.

While the PP is set to win Sunday’s election, it is unclear whether it will secure an absolute majority that would allow it to rule alone.

If it doesn’t, the PP will need to seek support from far-right Vox by bringing it to the regional government, as it did in the northern region of Castilla y León earlier this year.

So far, Vox has supported the PP in Andalusia but from an outside government.

Any deal with Vox would complicate efforts by the PP’s new national leader, Alberto Nez Feizu, to project a more liberal image.

‘gaining momentum’

Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, the head of the PP in Andalusia, has urged voters to give him a “strong” government that is not “weighed down” by Vox.

If the elections go right, it would be the Socialists’ third consecutive regional electoral defeat for the PP after the votes in Madrid in May 2021 and Castilla y León in February.

Antonio Barroso, an analyst at political advisory Teneo, said losing in Andalusia would be a “serious blow” to the socialists and would mean “Sánchez could face an uphill battle to be re-elected next year”.

“The PP is gaining increasing momentum, and voter concerns about inflation could make it more challenging for Sanchez to sell his government’s achievements in the next legislative election,” he said.

Spain’s inflation rate climbed to 8.7 percent in May as the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled inflation around the world, particularly through rising energy prices.

Oscar García Luengo, a professor of political science at the University of Granada, told AFP that the PP has sought to present itself as a “sensible alternative” to the center in Andalusia.

According to a Sigma Dos survey for the El Mundo daily, this strategy is working as the party looks set to win the support of the nearly 17 percent of voters who voted for the Socialists in 2018.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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