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Back by popular demand (I’m looking at you @grodaeu) it’s time for a mega-thread of #Spanishelectiontwitter! 1
Spain will hold its next general election on April 28th, its third since December 2015. This follows the rejection of the PSOE government’s 2019 budget at the hands of Catalan nationalist parties in mid-Feb. 2
The campaign will run from April 12th-26th. Polls will be blacked out for the five days prior to the vote, beginning on April 23rd. Expect plenty of thinly disguised polling data on the “Andorran fruit market” or some such to circulate online, though. 3
What do the polls currently tell us? The PSOE is pulling away from other political parties, polling on around 27%. But this is far short of the vote share needed for a majority. 4
Despite the PSOE’s lead, political momentum is more broadly with the political right, which has been buoyed in recent months by the Catalan crisis, a rise in irregular migration and the success of the far-right Vox at the Andalusian regional election in Dec. 5
Projected seat counts suggest that neither a right-wing alliance composed of the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox nor a left-wing one between the PSOE and Unidas Podemos will command a majority of 176 of 350 lower house seats. 6
The PSOE and Ciudadanos would stand a better chance of summing to a majority in the Congress of Deputies, but C’s has explicitly ruled out an alliance with the PSOE for now. 7
Ciudadanos is trying to prevent a loss of votes to the PP and Vox, probably calculating that more of its supporters are on the right wing of the political spectrum than the left. 8
Surveys suggest that disenchanted Spanish voters rarely cross from the bloc of “right” parties to the “left” and vice versa. Instead, they tend to switch within blocs, or stay home. @kikollan has made this point. 9
These are current vote intentions, by parties that voters chose at the last general election via @kikollan, @elpais and 40dB. 10
Indeed, Cs seems poised to lose around 10% of its 2016 voters to the PSOE, whereas it could lose about 15% to the PP and Vox. The right is the greater threat. 11
Should we trust the polls? Not too much, I think, particularly given the number of new parties who are likely to win significant vote shares. 12
This table shows a 5-day average of polls before the blackout period at the last two elections, compared to the actual results. Pollsters struggled to get an accurate reading on Cs and Podemos in 2015 and 2016, and badly underestimated the PP at the 2016 election. 13
It’s unclear how they will have adjusted their models this time around, but another miss—particularly with respect to Vox—is certainly plausible. 14
How about those seat count projections? In addition to the fact that the polls they are based on could be off, the fact that we could possibly have 5 parties with a vote share above 10% will complicate things. 15
The Congress's 350 seats are divided among Spain's 50 provinces and two enclaves in North Africa. These districts no longer accurately represent the geographic distribution of the population. 16
Owing to the fact that each province gets at least two seats (the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are single-seat constituencies) the small rural and sparsely populated districts that tend to be strongholds for the PSOE and the PP are overrepresented. 17
It’s also worth considering the mechanics of the electoral law, which is nominally a PR system, but in practice, is strongly majoritarian. 18
District magnitude is one issue. Smaller districts --> less proportionality. Of 350 seats, 213 are allocated in districts of 8 seats or less. In 2016, the average district magnitude was 6.7 seats and the median was 5. 19
In practice, this means that only Madrid (36 seats) and Barcelona (31 seats) are large enough districts to be truly proportional. 20
The PR formula that translates votes into seats is another thing. The Spanish electoral system uses the D’Hondt method, which means a lot of wasted votes and is less favourable to small parties than other counting systems. From Wikipedia: 21
Under the electoral rules, parties need to pass a 3% threshold at the district level to be eligible to win seats, but in practice, the effective threshold is generally much higher. 22
Electoral lists are also closed and do not allow preference voting. They are essentially drawn up by party leaders. In practice, this gives parties a lot of control over their MPs. 23
@jrhopkin has argued that the law was designed this way to prevent excessive political fragmentation during the transition to democracy. 24
Hence the choices for small districts, and the use of the 19th C provinces as boundaries, as well as closed lists. That said, a nominally PR system was chosen to ensure representativeness. 25
The net result is an electoral system that favours the PP and the PSOE, as well as regional nationalist parties, such as the ERC, PDeCAT and the Basque Nationalist party (PNV). These parties are small, but have a geographically concentrated voter base. 26
Despite the fragmentation of the party system since the 2015 election, the PP and PSOE continue to benefit disproportionately from the voting law, as shown in the table below. 27
Nonetheless, a higher number of medium-sized and larger parties will make seat counts less predictable than in the past. 28
For instance, Vox will split the vote on the right, which will mean that the PP could lose seats to Vox or even to the PSOE in previously safe smaller districts under the D'Hondt method. 29
@WilliamChislet3 explains with this table of seats allocated to “empty Spain” in his monthly newsletter. 30

It is worth noting that Vox has defied the PP in deciding to campaign in some of these rural districts, which would otherwise be safe wins for the PP. 31
A final unknown will be turnout. We really don’t know what participation will be. Polls say anywhere from 65 – 71%, compared to an all-time low of 66.5% at the last general election. 32
Low turnout should help the right, and this possibly accounts for the better than expected performance of the PP in 2016. 33
Putting all of this together, I think it is safe to say that a higher vote share than the 44% that it typically takes for the PP or the PSOE to win a majority will be needed to do the trick this time. 34
Indeed, a combined vote share of about 46% for the PP and Cs was not enough for a majority last time round. 35
So what do we think will happen? Our baseline scenario is that the vote will produce a hung parliament, with a high risk of a rerun election in late 2019. Probability 40%. 36
Yes, that’s right. Baseline scenario is 40%. 37

This is mainly because I do not think either the right or left will come out of the election with a clear majority, and the timeline after the vote is not a favourable one for a compromise. 38
First, regional, local and EP elections will be held on May 26th. Little incentive to compromise in the month after the vote. 39
Second, the trials of the pro-independence activists and politicians in Catalonia, including Oriol Junqueras, the leader of ERC. 40
There is no set time limit, but press sources say the trial could take 3 months, ending roughly in mid-May. We could see a verdict by late June. 41
Very difficult to see Pedro Sánchez securing the support of the Catalan nationalist parties for a govt backed by PSOE and Podemos a) a couple of months after they killed his budget, and b) in the wake of tough sentences from the Supreme Court. 42
The Catalan nationalists, and probably not even the PNV, would back a PP-Cs-Vox alliance, which would be hard-core unionist. 43
So gridlock looks pretty likely. Assuming Sánchez does attempt an investiture debate, some time in June, he would be likely to fail at the first confidence vote and probably at the second, when the threshold to get into office falls from an absolute to a simple majority. 44
After that first investiture vote, a 60-day countdown to form a govt begins, as per constitutional rules. If it can’t be done, then parliament is dissolved and we get a new election late this year. 45
Scenario 2 (30% probability) is that the PSOE and Ciudadanos do a deal. These parties could come close to a majority according to polls. But, as we’ve seen, surveys may well be overestimating Cs. 46
Cs has also explicitly ruled out doing a post-election deal with the PSOE. Although I think the two would come under a lot of political pressure to agree a pact if they sum to a majority. 47
Scenario 3 (20% probability) is a right-wing govt, backed by the PP, Cs and Vox. This would probably take the form of a minority PP govt with the external backing of Cs and Vox, as in Andalusia. 48
This would only work if these parties sum to a majority or are very close, I think. Expect a socially, and probably fiscally conservative turn under such a govt. 49
The final option (10% probability) would be a left govt backed by the PSOE, Unidas Podemos, and regional nationalists. Difficult because a) I doubt the numbers will work out, and b) the trial of the Catalan separatist leaders, and the Catalan nationalist parties’ budget veto. 50
What should we be watching? Themes of the campaign, for one thing. 51
Sánchez is promoting a raft of social legislation and will campaign on the far-right fear factor to bring out left-wing voters, as well. 52
Cs has tacked right and is doubling down on the Catalan independence issue. Beyond that, it has a number of interesting, wonkish proposals from a policy perspective, but it is unclear that these will resonate with many. 53
Vox is campaigning on blistering social conservatism, unabashed Spanish nationalism a perception that Spanish society has swung too far to the left in recent years. Also xenophobia. 54
After years of leadership by Rajoy, whose sole religion was jobs and growth, the PP is now seeking to reclaim its place as a culturally conservative party, emphasizing hot-button issues like abortion. 55
Podemos is trying to regain its footing after damaging internal squabbling, a fence-sitting approach on Catalonia that pleases no one, and Pablo Iglesias’ purchase of an expensive home. Right now, the PSOE looks much more credible on economic and social policies. 56
Turnout and mobilization are also important. Particularly for the left. See above. 57
A final point will be any surprise factors. An abrupt slowdown in the economy, for instance. No Deal Brexit. A shock verdict in the Catalan separatists’ trials. The return of market volatility, etc. 58
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