The elections held last Sunday in Spain, with a record voter turnout, teach lessons both for Puerto Rico and the rest of the world.
The results reflect changes in the mind of citizens who decided not to repeat their support to politicians tainted by corruption, which led to a defeat for bipartisanship. Results also highlight growing support to new groups, including some with radical ideologies.
For a region overwhelmed by challenges such as the United Kingdom's upcoming exit from the European Union, the unrelenting arrival of refugees and the ever-present threat of terrorism, Spain's political balance is essential.
In a way, that is the balance the victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), headed by the current prime minister Pedro Sánchez is seeking. So far, Sánchez stated that he can govern without the need for pacts, since his party controls the Parliament and that right-wing sectors are fragmented. However, left-wing parties such as Unidos Podemos (United We Can) have immediately offered an alliance to the socialists.
The PSOE won 123 seats in Parliament. The Popular Party (PP), which ruled Spain from 2011 until 2018, only won 66 seats, followed by Ciudadanos, a center-right sector, which got 57. Unidos Podemos reached 42 parliamentary seats. Meanwhile, extreme right-wing parties like Vox will have 24 and the Catalan independentists will have 15.
Such a loss for the PP – with a first term between 1996 and 2004 – follows accusations of bribes to party officials in returns for contracts, known as the Gürtel case which ended up with the treasurer of the party in jail and prime minister Mariano Rajoy leaving the government after the approval of a censoring motion filed by Sánchez.
The elections of April 28th, although without an absolute majority, - the higher figure is equivalent to 176 of 350 seats - reflected that internal conflicts and corruption, very clear in parties such as the PP, led to the exodus of voters. The movement has switched toward more balanced conservative parties, such as Ciudadanos, or toward racist and extremist formations, such as Vox. The latter represents groups, considered intolerant, which previously had no significant representation.
According to an important Spanish political scientist, the electoral victory is in the 'temperate' zones", far from the most radical and extreme corners of the parties, whose performance in our times is constantly examined by voters, and their determinations have intense media repercussions.
The end of bipartisan models clinging to failed histories, or drifting towards very radical positions that put voters on guard, is a fundamental lesson these elections leave for countries facing similar political processes. At the same time, the result shows how powerful the wear and tear of internal conflicts and corruption is.
The situation in Spain is not unique. The same thing has happened recently with left or center-left parties in Latin American countries. Fragmentation, corruption in some cases, and also exclusionary policies, created the breeding ground for candidates and parties with radically opposed signs to win elections.
Faced with this complex political scenario, from no won, Puerto Rico needs to rethink its approach to an electoral campaign that has already begun, carefully examining the options ahead.