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Spain's PM Calls for Shock Election    05/30 06:13


   MADRID (AP) -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Snchez's snap general election 
call breaks apart the coalition he built with the far-left United We Can party, 
marking a line in the sand with a movement born from grassroots activism whose 
electoral fortunes have nosedived.

   On Monday, Snchez brought forward a national election expected in December 
to July 23 after the conservative Popular Party, or PP, and far-right Vox 
movement dramatically increased their vote share in Sunday's local and regional 

   Snchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, known by the Spanish acronym 
PSOE, has led a minority central government with United We Can since 2019, but 
internal arguments with his coalition partners have increasingly dominated 
headlines. United We Can's leadership is also engaged in a separate feud with 
Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Daz, who has started her own political movement, 

   Ernesto Pascual, a political scientist and professor at UOC university in 
Barcelona, said the prime minister wanted to force the hand of the poorly 
performing, squabbling groupings to the left of his own party, to clarify who 
had the capacity and will to govern the country.

   "Pedro Snchez needs a bloc to his left which is united. So what he does is 
to prevent United We Can and Sumar from confronting each other anymore," 
Pascual said. "He is telling them, look, these are the electoral results. 
Either you unite or it is going to be a disaster."

   The shock tactic seemed to have an immediate effect: United We Can's leader, 
Ione Belarra, has already announced a reboot of negotiations with Sumar on an 
electoral pact. Legally, the parties only have until June 9 to apply to run on 
a joint ticket.

   Although the Socialists' overall vote share remained largely steady in the 
local and regional vote, the dire performance of United We Can across the 
country leaves the coalition with a questionable mandate to continue.

   "Pedro Snchez might read the results as the need to break up the current 
government hoping that the party still has some leverage to win the national 
elections in the short term," said Nagore Calvo Mendizabal, Senior Lecturer in 
Spanish and European Studies at King's College London.

   Sunday marked the nadir of United We Can's electoral performance since 
winning its first votes in a European election in 2014.

   The party was founded by Spain's precursor to the Occupy protest movement, 
and was originally led by university professor Pablo Iglesias. Tackling the 
austerity politics imposed by the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, 
United We Can promised policy drawn from grassroots activism, and grew to 
become a national force.

   After joining the coalition government in 2019 with the Socialists, United 
We Can has focused on issues such as gender identity and LGBTQ rights. "These 
are values that the traditional PSOE electorate does not understand," said 
Pascual. "They understand problems like the minimum wage and inflation."

   The party's combative style has led to furious confrontation with the PP and 
Vox in parliament. Iglesias officially left politics in 2021, though some see 
him as still pulling the strings, most recently in negotiations with Sumar over 
any electoral pact. "Behind is the founding father who refuses to let go of the 
reins at all," Pascual added.

   Since then, the PSOE and United We Can openly split over reforms the 
Socialists ordered to a controversial sexual consent law, which had opened a 
loophole for rapists to have their sentences reduced.

   While some will see a return to the two-party politics that dominated Spain 
until United We Can burst onto the scene, others insist that Spain's regional 
parties and the far right are still powerful enough to keep any PP or PSOE 
government in check without United We Can.

   While the "shock" of the announcement reverberates, said Sandra Len, a 
political scientist at Madrid's Carlos III University, the prime minister has 
calculated it is worth it to avoid "the costs of internal division in the 
government until December."

   The overall aim, Len and Pascual concurred, will be to discombobulate 
internal and external enemies. The handful of Socialists who did well in the 
regional elections are precisely the candidates who might threaten Snchez's 
authority within the PSOE. Meanwhile, voters will be seeing Vox call the shots 
with the nominally moderate PP in real time in the next few weeks, and may opt 
to vote for the Socialists to keep Vox from expanding their power in parliament.

   There are several inherent complications with the new date, however. A late 
July election is unprecedented in a southern European country like Spain, when 
many will be on vacation away from their registered voting address and when 
political parties will be right in the middle of negotiating alliances sprung 
from the local elections.

   The government will also need to deal with Spain taking over the rotating 
European Union presidency on July 1, and its active negotiations with the 
United Kingdom on a post-Brexit deal for the British enclave of Gibraltar.

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