Even the popular image of the roller coaster doesn’t do enough to describe the dizziness of the insane legislature ending this Sunday. In summary, just two weeks in February 2022 is enough. On February 3, the government could have fallen had not a PP deputy made a mistake in the vote in Congress that enabled the implementation of labor reform. On the 14th, it was the popular parties that approached the abyss in a fratricidal struggle that ended with the political execution of their leader. For some time, Spanish politics has been in a dizzying ebb and flow, and the final road to the ballot box is totally on track.
Pedro Sánchez said it clearly at his last rally: “We fell and rose again.” And the socialist candidate could have added several times. Given the unleashed enthusiasm of the militant crowd cheering Sánchez in Getafe, it was hard to identify the same party that had seemingly finally thrown in the towel a week earlier.
This is politics in Spain today, influenced by the rhythm of social networks and their movements, like flocks of birds that suddenly change direction at the slightest movement. With them an unprecedented demoscopic avalanche, which culminated in this campaign when various media – including EL PAÍS and Cadena SER – published daily polls. A simple swing up or down a few tenths could be interpreted as a large jerk.
When Sánchez surprisingly called the elections a few hours after the setback in the 28-M regional and local elections, quite a few thought that he was sketching the path of his victim. The gap between the two major parties was not that big at 3.5 points, but as a result the PSOE had almost no territorial power and the PP won its biggest victory ever. The newspapers were full of accounts of the discouragement of the Socialists and the party’s difficulties in preparing their party for struggle. Even in his demographic guardian angel, José Félix Tezanos’ CIS, Sánchez could find no solace. All other polls were devastating for him.
The first major turning point came with the pacts between PP and Vox. It had been announced that the PP would delay agreements with the extreme right for as long as possible in order to separate them from the election campaign. Alberto Núñez Feijóo chose a strategy that was very common for him: he tried to ignore it, claiming that each territory could decide autonomously.
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The result was an image of complete controllessness. In the Valencian community, the pact for a joint government was concluded within 24 hours with major programmatic concessions from the PP to Vox. And at the same time, María Guardiola, regional leader of the People’s Party in Extremadura, vowed her word that she would never admit before her executive those who “deny gender violence and dehumanize immigrants”, ie the same ones with whom their Valencian counterparts embraced. It took a week for him to live up to his promise.
Sánchez and Feijóo designed two almost opposite campaigns. The more popular, more traditional variant was to expel all of Spain. The socialist’s focused on the media, with a novelty: he went to sets and mics where he had received much wax and despised them. A testament to how capricious today’s politics can be, the first major turning point in the campaign was the president’s visit to the entertainment program El Hormiguero. Anyone who had expected that Sánchez’s tomb would be dug there was disappointed. The President emerged victorious. And excitement gripped their ranks.
Face to face fiasco
The election campaign officially began on the 7th, when the PSOE had fared significantly better in the polls and its strategists waved the comeback flag. Sánchez spent the first weekend in prison preparing the only one-on-one interview with Feijóo on Monday the 10th. The Socialists encouraged a sense that the President might leave his rival dejected on the silver screen. Exactly the opposite happened. What the popular leader did surprised no one who knew his background in Galicia. It fired off a ceaseless artillery of data from the moment it opened, regardless of whether some of the ammunition was real and some was fake. Sánchez lost his temper, got into arguments with shouting and interruptions, and showed his most arrogant side.
Popular leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo (d), current PP candidate for La Moncloa, with smuggler and drug dealer Marcial Dorado Baúlde, in a picture from the summer of 1995, on Dorado’s boat in the Vigo estuary.
These were days of weeping and gnashing of teeth for the socialists. The PP again distanced itself in the polls, and Sánchez could not hide his withered criticism. To make matters worse, the commitment of the other government partner, Sumar, to conduct a proactive campaign also failed to materialize. Some of his promises, such as a €20,000 “general inheritance” to everyone who comes of age, sparked more controversy than anything else.
Until everything turned again on the television. Feijóo began the last week of the election campaign in La Hora de la 1, repeating an untruth he had harbored for days and contained in the debate with Sánchez: that the PP had always revalued pensions using the CPI. The journalist Silvia Intxaurrondo corrected it, and the popular leader not only failed to correct it, but arrogantly made it ugly. The man who presented himself as an apostle of truth in the face of Sánchez’s lies had revealed his successful tactic face to face.
The skids switched sides again. Reality disputed the shadows of suspicion Feijóo cast on the postal vote. Sumar’s candidate Yolanda Díaz managed to get an old corpse of the PP leader out of the closet and into the election campaign, namely that of his long-standing friendship with the smuggler Marcial Dorado. In addition, Díaz aroused the enthusiasm of his people in the three-way debate, which Feijóo did not want to take part in and which brought together a sizeable audience (4.1 million viewers on average). And so, after this winding road, we arrive at voting day in the strangest of circumstances: the favorite is worried and those who seemed to lose in a state bordering on euphoria.
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