Albert Rivera is excited and in a defiant mode. Last Sunday, the leader of the Spanish Liberals achieved what other liberal parties in Europe might dream of. In only four years, he and his team of the “Equipo Naranja” (Team Orange, based on the orange colour of the party) further expanded their parliamentary presence and established themselves as liberal-centrist force in Spain. Ciudadanos (Cs) is now the third force nationally and are represented by 57 congressmen and women which is nearly the double compared to the previous elections in 2016 (32).
Especially in the bigger metropolitan areas Madrid (8 deputies), Barcelona (4) and Valencia (3), the party increased votes with a total result of 15.8%. Supported by more than four million Spanish voters, the party is not even one percentage point behind the conservative Partido Popular, one of the two main traditional Spanish parties.
These electoral results spur Spanish liberals in the upcoming European elections, as José Ramón Bauzá, fifth candidate on the Cs list for the European elections, emphasized in Brussels this week. Cs will continue to operate as a strong opposition at the national level, probably challenging the socialist minority government of the new and old prime minister Pablo Sanchéz (PSOE). As announced during the electoral campaign, PSOE will try to govern without coalition partners, counting on their newly strong presence in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, however, PSOE will need the support from other parties to pass laws.
Finally, the historically high turnout of 75% and widespread mobilisation, particularly in Catalonia, cannot disguise the fact that also a national-populist party (Vox) entered parliament last Sunday. A party whose leader happens to publicly wear a Spanish conqueror style helmet to pointout the “glorious” Spanish past. Although the right-shift that was feared by many did not materialize, more than forty years after dictator Franco’s death, radical right-wing positions in Spain have now regained their place in parliament. This makes the role of the Liberals in Spain, who want to strengthen democracy, transparency and the rule of law in the future legislative period, all the more important.
Reported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation Europe's Carmen Descamps