Spain has a largely 2-party system, but unlike France, there is no round two if a single political party fails to get a majority.

Instead, political parties must form a coalition. And that is precisely what happened in Spanish regional elections over the weekend.

Podemos Wins 15 Seats

The Guardian reports Spanish Anti-Austerity Party Podemos Wins 15 Seats in Andalusia.

Podemos, the Spanish anti-austerity party, will be a prominent force in Andalusia’s regional parliament after it won 15 seats in the party’s first election since its ally Syriza triumphed in Greece.

The Socialists, who have held power in Andalusia for more than three decades, will continue to govern the region. Lead by Susana Díaz, they won 35% percent of the vote, earning them 47 seats, shy of an outright majority.

“Andalusians have made their voices heard through the ballot box,” Díaz, 40, said on Sunday as the results came in.

The election held up Spain’s two-party system, albeit in a weakened state. The People’s party came in second with 27% of the vote, or 33 seats, but the party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy was the biggest loser on the day as the result was a steep drop from the 50 seats it won in the 2012 elections.

The Andalusian election generated considerable interest far outside the region’s boundaries. Spain this year will see municipal, regional and general elections across the country and many saw the Andalusian race as a crucial window into electoral sentiment.

The race was also Podemos’s first test since Syriza’s win in the Greek elections. With Andalusia’s unemployment rate sitting at 34% – the highest in Spain – and the Socialists entangled in allegations of misusing hundreds of millions of euros in public funds, the election was widely seen as one of Podemos’s first runs at turning discontent into votes.

On Sunday, the party touted their results as the first step in a change sweeping Spain. “The change has begun and will continue,” Podemos candidate Teresa Rodríguez said.

Podemos’s supporters had previously downplayed their chances in Andalusia, pointing to voters’ unwavering support of the regional Socialist party. But in one corner of Spain, Podemos exceeded all expectations: Cádiz. Home to Rodríguez and where the unemployment rate exceeds that of Greece, Podemos placed first in this city, earning 29% of the vote.

Podemos’s 15 seats could put them in a prime position of influence over the Socialists, who came eight seats short of a majority. With the Socialists on the hunt for coalition partners, be it formal or on an ad-hoc basis, Podemos now faces a unique dilemma.

Any alliance with the Socialists could dilute Podemos’s message of change, while an outright refusal to forge alliances could destabilise the regional parliament and lend credibility to opposition claims that a vote for Podemos is a vote for instability. “It’s going to be tough for them to show that they’re in the opposition but to show that they’re not a threat to the system,” said Torreblanca.

The real test for Spain’s bipartisan system will come as the Andalusian parliament begins with Podemos and Ciudadanos thrown into the mix, said Torreblanca. “With these results they’re not powerful enough to overthrow the system, but they’re powerful enough to change the system. They’re going to introduce a new sort of dynamism, more accountability and more transparency.”

Political Reality

Podemos is not just anti-austerity. Podemos is also anti-euro (see Podemos “Economic Manifesto” Calls for Debt Restructuring, Spain to Abandon the “Euro Trap”.

Podemos is now part of Spain’s official political reality” quipped my friend Bran who lives in Spain.

Political reality is also in play in France over the weekend. See Hollande’s Party (PS) Trounced by Sarkaozy (UMP) and Le Pen (FN) in French Local Elections.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock