Spanish elections: Sumar as the ray of hope

Sumar, the electoral coalition led by the outgoing Minister of Labour, Yolanda Diaz, obtained 3,014,006 votes, equal to 12.31% and 31 seats. The political result achieved is important because these votes helped to stop the forming of a government between the right-wing Popular Party and the extreme right-wing Vox. The conditions have also been created to continue the coalition government with the PSOE, to which the forces participating in Sumar give an overall positive assessment, although they are also aware of the limitations of the past four years.

The possibility of reconfirming a left-wing government will pass through negotiations with Puigdemont’s Catalan independence party, Junts, which on the socio-economic level certainly has more moderate positions than those for which Sumar is fighting. It will not be an easy path and it cannot be ruled out, as Spanish commentators point out, that new elections will be held within a few months.

In any case, in a European context that sees the right-wing and especially the more extremist and racist components on the offensive, having stopped Vox, which has suffered a significant setback, is a political success. Yolanda Diaz has personally contributed to it with her participation in the televised three-way debate with Sanchez (PSOE) and Abascal (Vox).

Sumar’s election campaign and its result make it more difficult for those components of the PSOE (especially some old dinosaurs like Gonzales and Guerra but also local ‘barons’) who see the alliance on the left as smoke and mirrors and who would certainly have preferred the full return to a consensual PSOE-PP bipartisanship. Sumar remains an essential component for any coalition hypothesis that prevents the extreme right and the ultra-reactionary right, which is also abundantly present within the Popular Party, from coming into government.

However, the limitations emerging from the election result should also not be overlooked.

Sumar fails to recover all the votes that in 2019 had gone to Unidas Podemos and Mas Pais (the party founded by Errejon after his break with Iglesias). Seven seats and almost 700,000 votes are lost.

A detailed analysis will allow us to better understand in which direction they faded away. Undoubtedly a large part went to the PSOE which, if it could not set up a campaign on the useful vote because striking Sumar would have made the reconstitution of the old majority impossible, was able to take advantage of the proportional system that does not provide for the distribution of the remainders at national level. In smaller constituencies that allocate few seats, the voter sympathetic to Sumar may have been induced to vote for the PSOE to allow the election of an MP.

Pedro Sanchez must be credited with having aimed first and foremost to defend the coalition, rather than to eliminate competition on the left and return to a bipartisan logic by serving a period of right-wing rule (as Veltroni and the PD did in his time).

In some cases, such as Euzkadi, where Sumar lost two seats, the growth of Bildu, the nationalist leftist formation that now moves with the aspiration of becoming the leading Basque party, has weighed in. In other cases it was not always possible for the votes that had gone to left-wing political forces in 2019 to flow entirely to Sumar (Madrid, Valencia, for example). Podemos itself, whose weight in the coalition was decisively reduced, and in which there was no lack of controversy over the exclusion of former minister Irene Montero from the lists, kept a low profile throughout the campaign.

On the other hand, Sumar had to go to the vote with the weight of the bad result of the May regional elections. On that occasion, the left had become dangerously fragmented. The negotiations in extremis between the various components for the lists gave the idea of a construction linked more to reasons of survival than to a real common project. It was the opposite of what Yolanda Diaz had tried to communicate in the previous months. It therefore took several weeks for the identity of the coalition to prevail over internal disputes.

Among the elected members, the most present are those directly expressed by Sumar (10), Izquierda Unida (5), Podemos (5), Catalunya en Comú (5).

Yolanda Diaz managed to regroup no less than 18 political formations and this alone, in the presence of a trend towards increasing fragmentation, was no small achievement.

Left out of the coalition were the radical Catalan independentists of the CUP and the Trotskyists of Anticapitalistas (who have an MEP elected in Unidas Podemos, from which they have splintered). The CUP collapsed from 246,971 to 98,794 votes and lost the two seats it had, in a context of decline of all the independence forces. In Andalusia, the Trotskyists of Teresa Rodrigues set up a localist formation, Adelante Andalucia, together with others, which only presented itself in Cadiz, where it could count on former mayor José Maria Gonzales ‘Kichi’ (Rodrigues’ personal partner). It only gathered 9,064 votes equal to 1.4%, far from the possibility of winning a seat. Defending local interests, albeit from the left, was the only ambition submitted to the voters, without success. Following the sectarianism of the Anticapitalistas, Rodrigues dispersed in a short time the popularity she had gained in Podemos.

In the immediate term, Sumar will have to contribute to the reconstruction of a progressive government, a path not without its pitfalls. In perspective, it will have to make the project more solid and coherent and root it more firmly in popular sectors – which have not yet been conquered.

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