If you read the headline, you naturally want to know if the next Spanish election is coming in 2019. We wouldn’t pose the question unless we had a sense of the answer.
Before getting into the likelihood that Spain heads to the ballot box, we must set the stage for how we got to where we are today. Where are we today, you ask? Pedro Sánchez, the current prime minister from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or PSOE), lost a budget vote in Spain’s national legislature on Wednesday, the 13th of February.(1)
In the parliamentary system, losing a budget vote usually means one thing: the government has lost the confidence of the chamber; in this case, the Congress of Deputies. Spain’s government has not yet pulled the plug, but it could come by the end of this week.
Timing The Next Spanish Election: Backstory
26 June 2016
Spain holds a general election, in which the center-right People’s Party (Partido Popular or PP) gained 14 seats. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was still in a minority government situation, but remained in office as president of the government. The PSOE, headed by opposition leader Pedro Sánchez, dropped five seats to 85. 176 was required for a majority, and the PP controlled 137.
It was the second election in Spain in about six months. The PSOE sustained its worst electoral performance in terms of seat count since the return to free elections in 1977. 22.63 percent was their second-lowest vote share in that time period.
1 October 2016
Sánchez resigns as PSOE leader after further poor regional election results. The wave against him inside his party built for almost a week, and he lost a showing of support within the federal membership.
21 May 2017
Pedro Sánchez wins a leadership ballot to retake the position of PSOE secretary-general. He took office on the 17th of June.
1 October 2017
Catalonia overwhelmingly votes in favor of independence, with 92 percent as “yes” votes. Turnout was approximately 43 percent. King Felipe VI rejected the result, as did the Spanish government, and independence did not become reality.
24 May 2018
A verdict is rendered in the Gürtel case, which saw the conviction of several figures for illegal activities, including but not limited to kickbacks and fraud. This corruption scandal shook the PP and Rajoy’s government, with the party in power also being directly implicated.
25 May 2018
Sánchez and the PSOE file a motion of no-confidence against Rajoy a day after the Gürtel verdict, citing government corruption. If adopted, the Rajoy government would end and Sánchez would be installed as the new Spanish prime minister.
1 June 2018
By a vote of 180 to 169, with one abstention, the Rajoy government fell. Sánchez was sworn in as prime minister the following day. Despite being the largest party in the Congress of Deputies, the PP moved to the opposition benches.
21 July 2018
Pablo Casado becomes the new leader of the PP.
13 February 2019
By a margin of 191 to 158, the PSOE minority government lost a vote in the Congress of Deputies on the national budget. Parties in support of Catalan independence, who helped Sánchez become prime minister less than a year ago, joined the opposition PP and centrist Citizens (Ciudadanos or C’s) in opposing the budget. Catalan separatist parties withheld support for the government due to lack of compromise on the issue of independence. Further, just a day earlier, a handful of pro-independence figures were put on trial for the abortive secession attempt.(2)
Timing The Next Spanish Election: Moving Forward
A number of events led to this day, one in which it appears a 2019 Spanish election will soon be called. Such an election will be the third since 2015, and it will be a critical one for the nation. Spain has lacked stable government in recent years, and the Catalan independence movement has posed a problem for Spanish national unity.
When all is said and done, the probable timing of the next Spanish election is April 2019, likely the 28th.(3) The steps Spain will take next in that vote will be carefully watched across Europe. Early opinion polls tell an eye-opening story: a four or even five-way race is shaping up, with the traditional powers PSOE and PP being challenged closely by C’s, leftist United We Can (Unidos Podemos), and perhaps also right-wing Vox.
Whomever comes out ahead, will he or she be able to form a government? Nobody did after the 2015 vote, and another election came just months later. This could be another one of those scenarios, but with a Congress of Deputies so fragmented that it would be impossible to say anyone “won” the election.
Aside From The Next Spanish Election
Electionarium’s coverage of European elections can be found here. This is soon to include coverage of the May 2019 European Parliament elections.
1: Elections in Spain Are Likely After Lawmakers Reject Budget (New York Times, 13 February 2019)
2: Catalan separatists threaten to derail Spain’s budget which could lead to new elections (CNBC.com, 6 February 2019)
3: Spain: Early election decision expected Friday (Washington Post, 13 February 2019)