BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s elections proved to be a tight battle between two leftist and two rightist blocs poised to team up to form potential governing coalitions. Here is a glance at the four leaders of those blocs and how their future may change after the results.
Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister since 2018, again withstood the odds in Sunday’s election, defying most poll forecasts. His Socialists Workers Party gained two more seats than in the last election, at the end of 2019, rising to 122 deputies.
But Sánchez will need the support of fringe parties, including separatist forces from Catalonia and the Basque Country, if he wants to keep his minority coalition going.
He may find it particularly hard to work with the hard-line Catalan separatist party Junts. The party is led by Carles Puigdemont, who is still technically on the run from Spanish courts as the mastermind behind the 2017 secession attempt in Catalonia that put Spain on the brinks of a territorial split.
However, Sánchez has demonstrated in his political career an extraordinary ability to overcome adversity.
Known for his dashing looks and progressive credentials that include having more women than men in his Cabinet and a strong environmental policy record, Sánchez has boosted Spain’s status in the European Union.
Alberto Núñez Feijóo
Alberto Núñez Feijóo was presented as the man who never lost an election, and he can still claim that. He led the conservative Popular Party to a first-place finish Sunday, following his four previous ballot victories in the northwestern region of Galicia.
But the showing fell short of winning enough seats to form a government, even with help from the far-right Vox party.
Feijóo has revived the Popular Party since he took charge of the party in April 2022 following an internal feud that toppled his predecessor, Pablo Casado. Initially portrayed as a moderate, he has moved to the right, promising to repeal many of the leftist government’s laws.
He is not in a position to easily form a government despite having won the biggest block of parliamentary seats Sunday. No other party in the Congress of Deputies is willing to join in a coalition with Vox as a member. That leaves with few, if any, options for reaching a 176-seat majority.
Santiago Abascal, leader of the nationalist-populist Vox party, likes to style himself as an outsider who has arrived on a mission to save Spain’s unity and identity. He entered Sunday poised to become the next deputy prime minister, but he ended the day in a position of political irrelevance.
His party took a beating, and lost just over a third of the seats it had held, going from 52 lawmakers to 33. It is still the third most voted party in Spain, slightly ahead of the far-left Sumar coalition, which got 31.
It was the failed secession bid by Catalonia in 2017 that fueled Vox’s rise. The party also has attracted a following by calling to repeal gender violence laws and slamming feminism. Critics accuse Vox of fear-mongering about unauthorized migration in the country.
Bearded and barrel-chested, Abascal, who always wears suits while attending Parliament, embraces the classic and even kitsch symbols of traditional Spanish culture.
The only woman among the main four leaders in Sunday’s election, Yolanda Díaz is the daughter of working-class, trade union and anti-Franco dictatorship activists. As does Feijóo, she hails from the northwestern region of Galicia.
She is consistently ranked among the country’s most popular politicians, but Díaz has had to battle the idea that she is simply a far-left extension of Sánchez, an image grounded in her role as his second deputy prime minister and labor minister.
Her Sumar coalition of left to far-left smaller parties failed to best Vox in the vote, getting just 31 seats. That will make it more difficult to restructure the left-wing governing coalition led by Sánchez.
A labor lawyer by training, she is known for her ability to broker agreements such as the industrial peace deal she forged with unions and business groups as well negotiating increases in the minimum wage and a special furlough plan for companies during the coronavirus pandemic.