Spain's Socialists plead for recount as they lose crucial seat after overseas vote tally

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Pamplona, Spain, Sunday July 23, 2023.
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Pamplona, Spain, Sunday July 23, 2023. Copyright Alvaro Barrientos/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Laura Llach with AFP
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

The Socialist Party lost a seat in parliament, after overseas votes were counted: a new obstacle for PM Pedro Sánchez as he struggles to form a government.


Never before had the overseas vote been so decisive or generated so much expectation in Spain.

Following this weekend's counting of votes of Spaniards living abroad who cast their ballots in July’s snap elections, the Socialists have suffered a setback, losing one seat in parliament. 

It's a new obstacle for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez as he tries to find a pathway to form a new government, and his party is calling for a recount. 

The seat in the region of Madrid, initially allocated to the Socialists, has been handed over to the opposition, the conservative Popular Party, with a margin of victory of just 1,749 votes. 

These elections, which failed to achieve a majority in Parliament, have left an inconclusive and tight result between the left and right.

Although the two blocs still far short of the 176 seats needed to obtain an absolute majority in parliament, the vote by Spaniards abroad has altered the balance of power, which now stands at 171 deputies for the Left and 172 for the Right in the 350-seat congress.

A slight difference that completely changes the political game.

Pedro Sánchez will now only be able to govern if the seven MPs from the Catalan pro-independence party led by Carles Puigdemont, Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), expressly say "yes" to a socialist government.

This result leaves Sánchez in the hands of Puigdemont, the former Catalan regional president who fled Spain after organising an illegal independence referendum in 2017.

The pro-independence leader has become now the kingmaker in Spain’s election stalemate. His seven MPs could determine whether Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stays in power.

What Sánchez will need now is their vote in favour of the Socialist Party, while before the overseas vote came into play, all they had to do was abstain.

"We want to have the right to self-determination and amnesty, logically, an amnesty that has not been resolved with a few pardons granted by the government," Josep Rius, a spokesperson for the Junts per Catalunya party told Euronews.

From Brussels, Puigdemont's announcement is along the same lines: amnesty and self-determination.

The Conservatives' near future does not look much better. Few parties are willing to support Núñez Feijóo, head of the Popular Party, whose chances are subject to the 33 deputies from the far-right Vox party.

Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Socialist Workers' Party leader and current Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez greets supporters outside the party's headquarters in MadridEmilio Morenatti/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Socialists try desperately to win back the seat

As soon as the results of the overseas vote were known, the Socialist Party made its move.

Sánchez asked the Madrid Provincial Electoral Board to review the 30,305 invalid votes in the ballot box to try and win back the seat lost to the Popular Party.

According to TVE, the Spanish public broadcaster, Socialists believe "the difference" in votes between the Popular Party and the Socialist Party "is so small, that we must be as careful as possible to ensure that no vote is left out”.

The Socialist arithmetic suggests that if just 4.37% of the invalid votes were finally considered valid ones in their favour, they would keep the lost seat. 

These calculations, however, do not take into account the fact that there may be invalid votes that could add up to the Popular Party’s recount.


Despite Sanchez's hopes, Madrid’s Provincial boards’ reply was not long in coming: "There is no reason, no possible irregularities in the null vote, to carry out the extraordinary revision".

However, the Socialist Party has already announced that it will take the petition to the Central Electoral Board and Sánchez remains firm in his message, there will be no re-run elections. 

The day after July’s elections the Socialist leader stated that he is “sure democracy can find a formula for government”.

Spaniards will now have to wait as congress prepares to convene on 17 August.

If neither bloc achieves a majority to form a government, Spain will have to hold new elections, probably at the end of the year, as was the case in 2016 and 2019.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Barcelona, Mallorca, Ibiza: All the beaches in Spain where smoking is banned

Spain isn't bowing to the rise of the far-right in the EU. Why?

Could a Catalan separatist party join a coalition government in Spain?