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Spanish Regional and Local Elections: Right Advances While Left Defends

Spain will hold its regional and local elections on Sunday, 28 May. All 12 autonomous communities but Andalusia, Basque Country, Castile and León, Catalonia, and Galicia, as well as two autonomous cities and 8,131 municipal councils go to the polls. These elections will be of great significance as they shape the distribution of political power in Spain and serve as an indicator of the political environment.

Expectations for these regional and local elections suggest that right-wing political parties may experience some gains. However, interpreting the outcomes will be a complex task due to various factors. Firstly, the proximity between the regional and local elections and the upcoming general elections, likely to take place at the end of this year, may influence these regional and local elections to some extent, posing the risk of their nationalisation and prompting voters to cast their ballots with the potential impact on the next general elections in mind.

Furthermore, regional and local elections are often characterised by increased complexity and diversity. On the one hand, the large number of simultaneous elections diminishes the equal political value of results across different autonomous communities and cities. On the other hand, the proliferation of political options and the strengthening of localist, regionalist, and nationalist parties lead to a more fragmented political landscape. This results in tough negotiations to reach agreements and coalitions to form stable governments.

Lastly, alongside the inherent political fragmentation characteristic of local and regional elections, the national political landscape is also currently experiencing significant division, following a logic of bloc politics so common elsewhere in Europe. Within this context, an intense competition will take place between the left and right-wing blocs, each striving to secure control over numerous cities and autonomous communities. This competition will also extend between the different parties which are part of each bloc, as they seek to achieve a result that grants an advantageous position in future negotiations for government formation and let them start from a privileged position in preparation for the upcoming general elections.

Considering the current circumstances, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the regional and local elections, taking into consideration their potential impacts on both the internal dynamics and the interplay between political blocs. This analysis should take a broad perspective, by examining how these elections may shape the political landscape and also exploring intricate complexities and significant factors at play. By doing so, we can gain a complete view of the multifaceted nature of these elections and their implications for the political future of the country.

Bloc politics in Spain

Between 2011 and 2014, Spanish politics experienced a profound and unprecedented transformation since the country’s transition to democracy. The aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the implemented austerity measures, and the widespread occurrence of corruption scandals severely undermined public trust in both institutions and political parties. This led to a reconfiguration of Spain’s political party system, which until then could be characterised as an imperfect two-party system, with the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE-S&D) and the centre-right People`s Party (PP-EPP) serving as the primary representatives of the left and right sides of the political spectrum, respectively.

The turning points of these transformation were the European elections of 2014, and the local, regional, and national elections of 2015, when two new political parties (Podemos-LEFT and CS-RE) obtained significant representation and held the key to forming new governments. These events marked the culmination of Spain’s traditional two-party system, introducing a multi-party system and bloc politics, which underwent a continuous reconfiguration with the emergence of more political parties in subsequent years.

In the current multi-party system that is characteristic of Spanish politics, PSOE and PP remain the largest parties in the left and right-wing blocs, respectively, while the relevance of Podemos and CS within their blocs has significantly diminished, with Podemos struggling to maintain its indispensability for the configuration of left-wing majorities, and CS heading towards disappearance.

Within the right-wing bloc, VOX (ECR) has taken on the role of new party formerly held by CS, but from a different ideological position: while CS is a liberal formation, VOX stands on the national-conservative side of the spectrum. In the left-wing bloc, the decline of Podemos has resulted in the emergence of a platform called Sumar (LEFT|G/EFA), driven by the current Minister of Labour and Second Vice-President Yolanda Díaz. Anyway, Sumar will not be running for the next regional and local elections as a political party, and it is still unclear whether they will reach an agreement in the future with Podemos to run together in the upcoming general elections, or if, on the contrary, they will compete for the same electoral space.

Current control of regional governments that are up on Sunday.

Red: PSOE (S&D)
Blue: PP (EPP)
Green: PRC (~RE)

Finally, and before we start analysing these regional and local elections within and between the political blocs, it is important to note that Spanish politics is not solely confined to the left and right-wing blocs, as there are also regional and nationalist political parties that have their own identity and can form alliances or collaborations with any of the blocs, based on their specific interests. However, in recent years, most of these parties have shown a clear inclination towards reaching agreements with the left-wing bloc.

Bloc politics in the light of the regional and local elections

The initial observation that arises from an analysis of these regional and local elections in terms of bloc politics is that most of the polls indicate an expansion of the right-wing bloc at the expense of the left-wing bloc. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the right-wing bloc’s growth and the left-wing bloc’s decline is still uncertain, and it remains unclear whether the expansion of the right-wing bloc will translate into increased political power, particularly in terms of holding a larger number of regional and local governments.

In terms of the overall impact these elections will have within political blocs, polls suggest that they present an opportunity for PSOE and PP to solidify their dominance in the left and right-wing blocs, while marginalizing the position of the new parties. This could be attributed to a certain polarization between both parties in national politics, and to their well-established structure, extensive territorial presence, and current control over most of the regional and local governments, which provides them with a strong position to contend to these elections. On the other hand, the new parties lack such political power, and, in many cases, have a limited territorial implantation, or internal divisions and multiple candidacies tend to weaken their position.

In a more detailed analysis within political blocs, these elections will mark the definitive disappearance of CS in the right-wing bloc, with its votes being primarily captured by PP and VOX. This will pose a challenge for both parties in their pursuit of gaining the support of the liberal electorate. It will also result in a shift in the alliance patterns that were established in the last regional and local elections within the right-wing bloc, where the natural alliance was based on coalition governments between PP and CS with external support from VOX in most of the cases. This new scenario will present a demanding situation for both PP and VOX:

  • In the case of PP, they will be by far the largest party within the right-wing bloc, but they are aware that the electoral growth they will experience in these elections will not be enough if they fail to obtain power in any of the autonomous communities or major cities currently governed by the left-wing bloc. In this regard, if they aspire to take governments away from the left-wing bloc, it is almost certain that they will have to reach agreements with VOX, which could undermine the credibility of the new moderate and management-focused approach that the party’s new leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, is trying to establish.
  • On the side of VOX, they have already made it clear that if their votes are decisive for the formation of new governments, they will demand to be part of those governments as a condition. For this reason, in VOX they are aware that beyond the growth they will experience compared to the last regional and local elections, their success in these elections will be measured by their ability to become indispensable for the formation of new regional and local governments, thereby gaining territorial power.

In the side of the left-wing bloc, which currently governs in coalition at the national level with the PSOE leading the government and Pedro Sánchez as President, these elections represent a tough test of public confidence in their governance of the country, as well as the governments they hold in different autonomous communities and cities. Within the political parties of the bloc, the key points to consider would be:

  • For the PSOE, it is clear they will be by far the largest party of the left-wing bloc, but their electoral performance may vary across the different territories compared to the previous regional and local elections. Their expectations on the path towards these elections have been shifting, and at present, they do not rule out the possibility of being the largest party nationwide and retain the majority of regional and local governments they currently hold. Besides, they acknowledge the difficulties and recognize that a significant part of their success in retaining the regional and local governments will depend on the sustenance of their potential government partners within the left-wing bloc.
  • For Podemos, they are running alongside with Izquierda Unida (IU-LEFT) in 10 out of 12 autonomous communities and in many municipal councils. Polls suggest a slight decline in their overall performance, but they still have a chance to maintain their representation in most of the autonomous communities and cities, and to continue as a key player in the formation of left-wing majorities. They know that these elections are a test of resilience and will set the path for future negotiations within the alternative left space. In this regard, Podemos know that it is crucial for their survival to maintain their representation in most autonomous communities and major cities.

Finally, the performance of localist, regionalist, and nationalist parties needs to be analysed, as they are the third political actor in the context of bloc politics. With regard to the performance of these parties in these elections, the main issues to highlight are the following:

  • In the case of the different nationalist parties, their visibility in the political landscape will perhaps not be of such public importance, given that Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia do not hold regional elections, leaving only the Chartered Community of Navarre as a territory that holds regional elections and which has an important representation of nationalist parties. Despite this, their role in the local elections will be relevant, and polls predict that they will be able to strengthen their positions in the Basque Country, Navarre, and Galicia, although they might lose ground in the case of Catalonia.
  • On the regionalist and localist side, it will be interesting to see the performance of the alternative left actors participating in these elections in their respective territories, such as Compromís (G/EFA), Más Madrid (G/EFA) or BComú (G/EFA|LEFT), among others. These political parties are allied in the Sumar platform promoted by Vice-President Yolanda Díaz for the general elections. Polls suggest that they will fare better than Podemos in these elections, although their results are very variable within the different territories where they are running; polls also show significant disparities between one another.

The regional level

These regional elections can be summarized as follows: the left-wing bloc finds itself in a defensive position, as it currently holds governance in 10 out of the 12 autonomous communities where elections are being held: Asturias, Aragón, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarre, Valencian Community and Cantabria (in this last case, regionalists lead the coalition government with PSOE). In contrast, the right-wing bloc is taking an offensive stance, as it needs to defend its power in only two autonomous communities (Madrid and Murcia) and actively seek control of certain autonomous communities from the left-wing bloc.

This summary becomes starker when one considers that polls show that results in the autonomous communities governed by the left-wing bloc remain uncertain, with the possibility of new governments being decided by narrow margins. In contrast, in the autonomous communities where the right-wing bloc holds power, the left has no possibility of winning.

In these circumstances, the left-wing bloc, particularly PSOE, which leads almost all of the regional governments, has the most to lose in these elections in terms of political power. However, this does not relieve the pressure from the right-wing bloc, especially PP, which will be the dominant party by far within the bloc, as they hold high expectations in these elections, and are fully aware that failing to attain power in any of the autonomous communities currently governed by the left-wing bloc would be a bad result.

In this scenario of maximum parity in most of the autonomous communities where the left-wing governs, and clear advantage for the right-wing in the autonomous communities they currently govern, certain factors will play a decisive role in tipping the balance. Among these factors is the extent to which PP and VOX will grow in the different territories and, perhaps more importantly, the role that Podemos ends up playing in these elections, since in many territories polls give them a result very near the threshold of entry to the regional parliament. With respect to the latter, the non-entry of Podemos in the regional parliament of Madrid could facilitate an absolute majority for PP, without the need to count on VOX; while in autonomous communities such as the Valencian Community or Extremadura, it could mean the loss of the majority for the left-wing governments.

Moreover, political analysts emphasize the Valencian Community as a crucial factor in interpreting the results of these regional elections. This is because it is the only big region in terms of population where the left-wing bloc is governing right now (Andalusia and Madrid are governed by PP, and Catalonia is governed by the Catalan nationalist ERC (G/EFA)), and because all the polls indicate an uncertain outcome, with the majority potentially hinging on a few seats. In this regard, analysts highly agree in pointing out that if PP and VOX manage to wrest control of the Valencian Community from the left-wing bloc, it would be a knockout for the left. Conversely, if PSOE and its allies in the left-wing bloc succeed in retaining power in the Valencian Community, the left will emerge strengthened from these regional elections.

To sum up, the table presented below provides an overview of diverse power-sharing scenarios for regional governments based on political blocs following the upcoming elections:

Scenarios for the distribution of regional governments by political bloc after the elections

Left-wing bloc – certainLeft-wing bloc – probableUncertainRight-wing bloc – probableRight-wing bloc – certain
AsturiasAragonLa RiojaCeuta*
Balearic IslandsCantabria  Madrid
Canary IslandsCastile-La Mancha  Murcia
NavarreValencian Community  

*Autonomous cities. Source: own elaboration based on published polls.

The local level

The distribution of power in these local elections is slightly different from the regional case, due to the greater diversity of territories (8,131 municipalities). However, an analysis of the current governments of the country’s 20 most populated cities shows a certain predominance of the left-wing bloc over the right-wing bloc: 11 cities are governed by PSOE, 5 by PP, 2 by EAJ PNV (RE, Basque nationalism), 1 by BComú and 1 by Compromís.

The projected results for these elections also bear similarities to the regional ones, particularly when analysing the larger cities. According to polls, it is projected that the right-wing bloc will experience growth and retain its majority in the large cities where it currently governs. On the other hand, in certain large cities governed by the left-wing bloc, such as Valencia and Seville, the results are anticipated to be highly competitive. However, it is important to note that, unlike in regions, cities do not require a majority to govern. In the event that a majority is not formed, the list with the highest number of votes assumes power.

Despite these similarities with the regional context, when examining the local landscape, polls reveal distinct geographic patterns that may not have been as pronounced at the regional level. Unlike regional elections, which do not encompass territories like Andalusia, Castile and Leon, Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia, local elections span across the entire country. In this regard, polls indicate a noteworthy divergence in support for the right-wing bloc in various cities. Notably, cities in the southern region, particularly Andalusia, exhibit a significant surge in support for the right-wing bloc. Conversely, cities in Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Navarre experience a stagnation of the right-wing bloc, with nationalist and left-wing parties assuming prominent positions.

At a more specific level, the cities that will significantly influence the interpretation of the results in these local elections are Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville. Although the city of Madrid holds undeniable importance as the country’s capital, it is widely expected that the right-wing bloc will retain its majority there. Therefore, the spotlight will predominantly be on the fiercely contested elections taking place in Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville.

In the city of Barcelona, the current government is formed by a coalition between BComú and PSC (the Catalan brand of the PSOE), with BComú holding the leadership with Mayor Ada Colau. According to polls, a three-way tie for the top position between PSC, BComú, and TxB (NI, Catalan nationalism) could be expected. While the party that secures first place will not necessarily govern the city, it is undeniable that the winner will emerge as the strongest party following the elections, as post-election agreements between different political parties remain uncertain.

In Valencia and Seville, a more traditional contest between the left and right-wing blocs can be observed. In Valencia, where Compromis currently leads the government in coalition with the PSOE, the situation mirrors that of the Valencian Community. According to polls, the result will be determined by a narrow margin of votes, leaving uncertainty as to whether the current left-wing government will be able to maintain its position or whether the combined force of PP-EPP and VOX will achieve a majority to govern the city. Similarly, in Seville, PSOE is currently in power, but as in Valencia, there is a chance that a majority coalition formed by PP and VOX could take over the city’s government, further consolidating the growth of the right-wing bloc in the southern region of the country.

To sum up, the table below illustrates various power-sharing scenarios for local governments based on political blocs following the upcoming elections in cities with populations exceeding 500,000:

Scenarios for the distribution of local governments by political bloc after the elections for cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants

Left-wing bloc – certainLeft-wing bloc – probableUncertainRight-wing bloc – probableRight-wing bloc – certain
Valencia  Malaga

Source: own elaboration based on published polls.


  • The overall result of these elections will strengthen the position of PSOE and PP in the left and right-wing blocs, respectively.
  • Among political blocs, an expansion of the right-wing bloc at the expense of the left-wing bloc will be observed. However, the interpretation of the overall results of these elections is likely to be mixed, with no clear winner.
  • At the regional level, the Valencian Community is the autonomous community with the greatest political value, and its result will gauge the mood after the elections.
  • At the local level, the most important results will be in the cities of Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.