Following tight on the heels of the Brexit vote, Spanish legislative elections on Sunday (June 26) are an important test of how much further disarray the European electorate’s frustrations will inflict on those committed to holding the region together.
An election in Dec. 2015 failed to consolidate a national government, leaving none of Spain’s parties with an outright majority, and precipitating months of political gridlock. Currently, the conservative Partido Popular (PP) holds the largest number of parliamentary seats, followed by the Socialist Party (PSOE). Far-left, anti-austerity Podemos and the centrist Ciudadano parties have additionally maintained substantial presences, in third and fourth place respectively.
Polls suggest Sunday’s vote isn’t likely to heal Spain’s increasingly fractured political landscape, however. With unemployment hovering around 20%, Spaniards are more frustrated with the status quo than ever—a sentiment arguably responsible for driving fringe parties to the forefront of Spanish politics in the first place.
A poll taken last week indicates that an alliance between Podemos and fellow left-wing party United Left (IU), led by the charismatic Pablo Iglesias, could clinch a majority of parliamentary seats on Sunday. Such an explosive development would confirm anxieties of a Europe swept up in a wave of fringe politics.
And the trend is hardly limited to Britain and Spain. The anti-establishment Five Star movement won control of two major Italian cities on June 19 with the election of Virginia Raggi and Chiara Appendino to the mayorships of Rome and Turin respectively.
Other major European elections to take place in 2016 include those for the Czech senate, the Lithuanian parliament, and Bulgarian presidency in October, the same month that Italy will hold a constitutional referendum on the format of its major legislature. Elections for the Romanian parliament will be held in November. Moving into 2017, Germany will elect a president in February, the Dutch will vote in a parliament in March, and France and Hungary will elect their presidents in April. (The latter two are of particular interest, given the growing popularity of the far-right National Front in France, and the current primacy of its Hungarian counterpart Fidesz.)
All will either confirm or deny the popularity of anti-centrist politics in Europe, and perhaps ultimately seal the fate of the EU itself.