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In the Spotlight: Three Take-Aways From Galician and Basque Elections

On 12 July, the Spanish regions of Galicia and the Basque Country held regional assembly elections. Here are our three main take-aways:

1) Centrist leaders maintain their large support base in both regions

In Galicia, regional president Alberto Núñez Feijoo (PP-EPP) achieved his fourth consecutive absolute majority by keeping a distance in his rhetoric from the People’s Party (PP-EPP) national leadership, characterised by fierce criticism of the central government. Feijoo’s results improved compared to those achieved in 2016, and the PP now has 42 out of the 75 total seats in the regional parliament.

In the Basque Country, regional president Iñigo Urkullu has cemented his third victory as the leader of the regionalist Basque Nationalist Party (PNV-RE) on a solid alliance with the centre-left Socialist Party of the Basque Country–Basque Country Left (PSE/EE-S&D). Together, both parties will have 41 out of the 75 seats, up three from 2016. PNV has been the undisputed winner in all elections in Basque Country since 1978 and will continue to be a crucial actor in the national parliament with its support to the government formed by the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE-S&D) and the left-wing Unidos Podemos (UP-GUE/NGL).

2) Left-wing, pro-independence parties make strong showings, but not enough to tilt the balance of regional power. 

Pro-independence Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG-G/EFA) achieved a record 19 seats at the expense of the regional branch of UP, Galicia en Común (GUE/NGL), which lost all its MPs. This comes as a bittersweet result since BNG and the centre-left Socialists Party of Galicia (PSdeG-S&D) were far from an alternative majority to Feijoo’s PP.

In the Basque Country, pro-independence and left-wing EH Bildu’s (GUE/NGL) 21 seats equal the 2012 tally, albeit with a much higher percentage of total votes (27.6% versus the 24.7% recorded in 2012). However, EH Bildu has no potential allies in sight to contest the regional presidency from the PNV.

3) Mixed results for the main national parties. 

First, it must be emphasised that both regions differ from most in Spain due to their historical and linguistic backgrounds, and it is hard to draw parallels with the trends observed in Madrid.

As for the parties that make up the central government, PSOE might be disappointed not to gain an advantage from UP losing big chunks of support, having failed to lead the opposition in the Basque Country and Galicia. On its part, UP will need to address its strategy of engaging with existing small, local parties to gain support on the ground, given its poor results. It seems clear that leaders put in place by the national leadership do not succeed at consolidating alliances in these regions.

The coalition of Citizens (Cs-RE) and PP in Basque Country has garnered them fewer votes than what PP achieved on its own in 2016. The Galician case might show how leverage seems to be on the side of PP: Cs alone was not able to enter the Galician parliament and came in 5th, far behind national-conservative VOX (ECR).