By Dave Jamieson
SPANISH voters go the polls this Sunday in a general election with an unpredictable outcome. Since 1982, the conservative Partido Popular, presently in power and now led by Mariano Rajoy, has won three national polls, while the centre-left socialist workers’ party, the PSOE, now under Pedro Sánchez, has won six. In each case, it was more or less a two-horse race with smaller parties relegated to the margins.
However, the economic crisis of 2008 was the trigger for change. Sr Rajoy heavily defeated the socialists in 2011 but fresh faces were already emerging to oppose the PP’s continuing austerity measures and to capitalise on the public’s disgust with corruption scandals which affected both major parties.
The two main newcomers challenging the old order are Ciudadanos and Podemos. Ciudadanos’s leader, Albert Rivera, just 36-years-old, is well regarded by voters who want to clean up Spanish politics and by business leaders who support his promise of a single-contract system for workers. Podemos is led by Pablo Iglesias, a 37-year-old, charismatic, pony-tailed former political science lecturer. His party grew out of large-scale protests against austerity imposed by prime minister Rajoy and his socialist predecessor, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.