Nobody could believe it in the PP. As the investigation progressed, the mood grew darker. “Up to 60% is not worrying. It’s ugly from there,” one baron pointed out as early signs the night wasn’t looking good. Nothing was as expected. The party had resigned itself to the idea of a comfortable win and a Vox-guaranteed sum, as all of its internal follow-ups told them throughout the campaign, but as the scrutiny evolved, the idea began to unravel. Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who privately claimed just a week before the elections that he thought an absolute majority for the PP was possible, suddenly found that his expectations were dwindling. The PP wins the elections but does not have an absolute majority with the extreme right, the only pass assured for La Moncloa: the PP wins 136 seats and Vox 33, seven seats short of the absolute majority required for the inauguration in the first round. Nonetheless, Feijóo claimed his right to rule. “The Spaniards gave us confidence. And they have also called on all parties to engage in dialogue. As the candidate of the party with the most votes, I believe it is my duty to open this dialogue to try to govern our country,” he announced from the balcony of the PP headquarters.
Feijóo will maintain that it is the list with the most defendable votes that they must let him govern, he said from the balcony of the PP headquarters on Calle de Génova in Madrid, almost screaming and with a contorted face. “With all humility, but with all determination, I accept the task of forming a government that corresponds to the will of the majority in the elections,” defended the PP leader. “I ask that no one be tempted to block Spain again. The anomaly that in Spain the party with the most votes could not govern has only the blockade as an alternative,” he stressed. Feijóo later asked the PSOE to abstain from voting. “So I’m asking the party that won the elections. I urge the PSOE and the rest of the parliamentary forces not to block Spain again. But the mood among his assembled supporters left no doubt. “Let Txapote vote for you!” they shouted. “Ayuso, Ayuso!” They shouted “oo, oo, Feijóo to La Moncloa” at the same time, an equidistance that said it all.
The PP adheres to an arithmetic that makes it almost impossible to get the approval of Vox, PNV, the Canary Coalition and UPN at the same time. Sources from the PP leader’s team admitted late into the night that they found it more difficult to get a free voice at Vox than at PNV.
However, some popular baronies proposed a different scenario: that of redial. “Blockade and new elections. “Elections are taking place in Catalonia and the Catalan parties will not support the national parties,” analyzed an important PP president who saw new elections on the horizon.
It was a heart attack night at PP. “We will suffer,” recognized a leader before the trial had begun. “Gosh how weird I see this all,” remarked another as the count progressed. Expectations differed markedly, according to the first statement made by PP Secretary General Cuca Gamarra after seven thirty at PP headquarters, before the start of the count. “It will be a good election evening,” said Ufana. “To be honest, we’re happy.” Shortly afterwards, everything went wrong.
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The result is well below expectations. Feijóo expected no fewer than 150 seats and his goal was to get 168 MPs to try and govern alone. At the top, they proclaimed that going below 150 was a bad number. “We’re screwed at 140,” said a recalcitrant leader who wanted to fit the extreme right into the Council of Ministers but always believed the sum with Vox represented a sufficient majority to oust Pedro Sánchez from power. However, in Madrid and Andalusia, where results almost doubled from 2019, or in the Valencian Community, the momentum of the PP was not enough to offset the poor results in Catalonia or the Basque Country.
Some sources close to Feijóo have harbored fears of a blockade scenario in recent days. The PP leader has been warning all of last week that even if the left wins the elections, it may be able to re-form the government. “Those who are going to lose the Champions League are willing to say they are more than just the winner. “As always, it’s a fake Champions League,” Feijóo warned at the final campaign rally on Friday in A Coruña.
Nobody really knows what happened. The popular had privately defended for months that the pacts with the far right did not disadvantage them, that Vox was “amortized” and no longer afraid. After the outcome, the leadership began to assume that they had not analyzed well the implications of a deal with the far right. “Vox contaminated,” recognized a member of the popular leadership. “You must never lose your centre,” came the voice of a veteran in Genoa.
The problems began as early as the primary campaign, marked by the PP’s agreements with Vox. The popular parties formed two coalition governments with the extreme right, one very fast – the Valencian Community – and another slower – Extremadura – with Feijóo defending both pacts, confident that they were not showing signs of wear and that the socialist leader was being punished much more for his alliances. “Sánchez is met with a lot of rejection. You don’t bring that up in the election campaign,” they claimed in the popular leadership, where they didn’t analyze the strength of the PSOE well.
But the end of the election campaign was fateful. Except for the debate against Sánchez, which Feijóo won, everything else went wrong. The leader of the PP fell into a loop of false testimonies – “inaccuracies,” as he put it – and alternate versions of his friendship with drug dealer Marcial Dorado three decades ago, which he eventually justified by saying he was “a smuggler.” Then he left the chair empty in the debate before four o’clock. “The left has mobilized in the last week,” one Baron summarized the unexpected twist in the script, which they didn’t expect in the PP. Now everything is checked.
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