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What next for Spain after PM Pedro Sanchez calls snap general election?

A partially damaged poster of Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Party candidate Pedro Sanchez.
A partially damaged poster of Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Party candidate Pedro Sanchez. Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved
By Laura Llach with AP
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The announcement comes one day after Spain's leftist parties suffered a resounding defeat in local elections.

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Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called a snap general election for July. 

The move follows the success of the conservatives in Sunday's key local and regional elections, which represented a clear shift in the political map of Spain. 

Conservatives won in seven out of the 12 regions holding elections and succeeded in several regions previously dominated by the Socialists.

The numbers underscored the left-wing's electoral vulnerability, with some pundits claiming Sanchez fears a longer period in government will wear them down even further.

But what happens now? 

Electoral strategy

Although the decision caught many Spaniards by surprise, the Socialist strategy is not new.

Back in 2019 Sanchez - who had only been governing for a few months - called for a general election which proved successful.

The threat of the far-right party Vox triggered a great mobilisation of the Spanish left.

Sanchez could be hoping for the same thing to happen again.

By calling the vote, Spain is being offered a choice: They can either consolidate the result of the recent regional elections, which could leave power in the hands of the conservative Popular Party - who would need the far-right party Vox to rule - or mobilise to stop this.

Sanchez is banking on the latter, believing the threat of a far-right party would work in his electoral favour. 

Four years later, Vox has still growing support election after election, according to Sunday's results.

The far-right movement more than doubled its share of local councillors to 7.2%, meaning they will have a significant influence on policies in cities where the PP will need their votes.

According to Óscar Sánchez Alonso, Professor of Politics at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, the Socialist Party could use the possible regional coalitions between the Popular Party and Vox as part of their electoral strategy against the conservatives.

But other considerations are also at play.

With this move, Sánchez also leaves Sumar (Unite) - the deputy prime minister and minister of labour’s new political party- with no time to consolidate politically.

This party, composed of more than a dozen left-leaning groups, was launched just a few months ago. Its emergence has drastically changed Spain’s political landscape, potentially taking votes away from the socialists.

“The electoral advance is strategic, Sanchez leaves less time to parties, especially the ones like Sumar, to prepare their campaign and no time to look for an alternative candidate within his own party”, says the professor.

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Conservative opposition ousts Socialists

In the recent elections, the Popular Party won more than seven million votes, two million more than in the last elections which took place in 2019.

A much-celebrated outcome which contrasts with the socialist debacle. 

Sanchez's party went from 6.6 million votes in the previous election, to 6.2 million last Sunday.

The conservatives also swung important cities including Valencia and Seville from the Socialists, achieving an absolute majority for the mayor in Madrid, the capital.

At a regional level, the Socialists suffered the loss of territories considered to be strongholds.

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The region of Valencia - ruled by them since 2015- Extremadura, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and La Rioja could now be governed by the Popular Party.

Due to the alliances that may be formed, it is not yet clear who will lead the municipalities.

When asked about the Socialist debacle, Professor of Politics Alonso points towards the deterioration of their “brand”, which has taken its toll on regional and local candidates.

“The electoral alliances that Sanchez has forged come at a high cost, even for the electorate that usually votes for the Socialist Party”, says the expert.

Sanchez sought the support of controversial allies when he was appointed Prime Minister. Among them several smaller regional nationalist parties, including EH Bildu, known to be the political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

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