Over recent days some 400 million citizens across the European Union’s 28 member states had the chance to elect a new European Parliament.
Yesterday saw Spain’s ruling Popular Party government defeat the main opposition Socialist Party in a close competition for EU Parliament seats.
However, both main parties lost ground to smaller parties who took the opportunity to capitalize in the elections after years of civil discontent due to high unemployment, corruption and harsh austerity policies championed by EU leaders.
Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s PP, which swept to power in late 2011 with an absolute majority, took 26% of the vote, down from 44% in the general election.
The conservative PP took 16 of Spain’s 54 seats, with 14 seats going to the PSOE. In 2009 the Socialist Party took 29% of the votes, but this year this had dropped to 23%.
Both mainstream parties suffered in these recent elections. In 2009, the parties took a combined figure of 47 seats. This year their shared total fell from 80% to 49%.
The parties lost a combined 17 European Parliament seats, leaving them with 30 out of Spain’s 54. They had been expected to lose about 10.
Voter disenchantment following a deep economic crisis resulted in fragmentation, with eight smaller parties sharing the remaining 24 seats. This was a far bigger total than pre-election polling had predicted.
Unlike voters in many EU countries, Spaniards rejected parties that favour cutting ties with the European Union. However, they gave strong support to anti-austerity, leftist parties as well as separatists in Catalonia who are calling for a referendum on splitting the region from the rest of Spain.
The Plural Left, a coalition that includes Communists, added four seats for a total of six. New party ‘We Can’, which adopted the rhetoric of the “indignant” movement that took over Spanish plazas three years ago to protest economic inequality, secured five seats. The centrist Union, Progress and Democracy party won four seats, up from one.
Catalan voters turned out in strong numbers. They made the oldest pro-independence party, Republican Left of Catalonia, the region’s top vote-getter for the first time since the 1930s. The Republican Left got 23.7% of the vote, up from 9.2% in 2009.
Voter turnout in Catalonia was 47.6%. This was 10% higher than in 2009 and slightly higher than Sunday’s nationwide turnout of 45.8%.