Spot the difference

Since the 2019 election, the right is thriving and the left is waning; and if this trend continues, it could result in defeat for the Socialist-Podemos bloc in December 2023

MARK NAYLER

A recent poll of voter intentions in Spain shows that the gap between the Socialists and the Conservatives, in terms of their perceived competence in handling major issues, is becoming smaller and smaller. Equally uninspiring (as you could interpret the results), they form one great homogenous mass - the Political Class. Two other things about the poll command attention: first, that the Socialists are now seen as the best stewards of the economy, an accolade traditionally awarded to the Spanish right; and secondly that the right, in the form of the Popular Party (PP) and Vox, would have more seats than the current leftist coalition if an election were held today.

Of the 2,000 people polled for El País and the Cadena SUR radio station, 22.4% said that the Socialists are best able to improve Spain's economic situation, putting the governing party marginally ahead of the PP, which received 21.2%. Pole position isn't entirely undeserved for the PSOE: Yolanda Díaz's labour reforms look set to augment workers' rights and employment levels have returned to pre-pandemic health. But does this last fact speak of quantity rather than quality? After all, under Mariano Rajoy, the PP pulled half a million jobs out of its hat every year - and most of them were worthless.

Puzzlingly, 25.2% of the survey's participants reckon that the PSOE is the best party to disburse the EU's Covid recovery funds over the next few years. Or should it be more surprising that as many as 17.7% think that the PP could do a better job, given that the Conservatives have provided no indications about how they would deploy this unprecedented handout if in power?

Overall, the Socialists came first with 26.1% and the PP came second with 23.5%. It's far from an emphatic victory for the left. Substantial gains on the right, for both the PP (+11 seats) and Vox (+14 seats), mean that they would sit on 165 seats in congress if a vote were held today, as opposed to 139 by the PSOE (-12) and Unidas Podemos (-4). Since the 2019 election, the right is thriving and the left is waning; and if this trend continues, it could result in defeat for the Socialist-Podemos bloc in December 2023 and a potential PP-Vox coalition - provided that the right's negotiating powers are up to the task.

There's another possibility. Because the Conservatives, under the content-free leadership of Pablo Casado, collude with almost everything the government does, maybe they should junk the opposition gig and join the POSE, after what's guaranteed to be another inconclusive election next year. At least that way both parties would have a majority, instead of having to hold a policy auction every time they wanted to get something done.