Spain is set to hold an early general election on July 23, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Monday. The announcement comes after Sanchez Socialist Party suffered serious setbacks to the conservative opposition in regional elections held on Sunday.
In the regional elections on Sunday Sanchez's Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and its junior coalition ally Unidas Podemos (United We Can) suffered considerable defeats, while the conservative People's Party (PP) and the far-right Vox parties secured major wins.
The decision also has implications for Latin America and Mercosur since on July first Spain will be taking over the rotating chair of the European Union, and Sanchez had promised his commitment to ease bilateral relations and have the EU/Mercosur trade agreement finally approved. The political situation in Spain could mean a further delay.
Addressing the nation on national television, Sanchez said he took the decision when looking at the results of the elections of yesterday. He added Although yesterday's elections had a local and regional significant focus, the meaning of the vote conveys a message that goes beyond that. That is why, as both prime minister and PSOE's secretary-general, I personally assume the results.
Sanchez said he spoke with Spain's King Felipe VI about the decision, and that Parliament would be dissolved later on Monday.
The election results in the 12 Spanish regions that went to the polls on Sunday showed a major swing to the right. The conservative opposition PP won two regions outright in Sunday's polls. In six other regions, PP could likely partner with Vox to form a majority.
Overall, the PP won 31.5% of the votes compared to 28.2% for the Socialists. Looking to the last elections in 2019, support for the Socialists dropped 1.2%, but the PP's result skyrocketed by almost 9%.
Prior to the regional election setback, Sanchez said he planned on fully completing his four-year term, with the country originally set for a general election in December.
While announcing the snap vote came as a surprise, political analysts believe Sanchez hopes to cut short gains by conservatives.
This is unexpected, Ignacio Jurado, a political scientist at Madrid's Carlos III University told the Madrid media. Sanchez is trying to short circuit the PP's rise as soon as possible, he added.
Lacking a parliamentary majority, Sanchez has been forced to negotiate with Catalan and Basque separatists to pass bills.
The conservative parties were angered by the government's decision to abolish the crime of sedition of which nine separatist leaders were convicted over their role in the Catalonia region's failed independence bid in 2017.
In June 2021, Sanchez's government pardoned the nine in the spirit of dialogue. This triggered protests organized by conservatives and the far right.