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Centerpartiets systerparti Ciudadanos kampanjar inför det spanska valet

Söndag 28 april går Spanien till val efter att regeringen misslyckats med att få igenom sin budget. Nedan berättar Centerpartiets spanska systerparti Ciudadanos om bakgrunden till valet, sin egen valkampanj och det nya högerpopulistiska partiet som går starkt i opinionsundersökningarna. På bilden syns Ciudadanos partiledare Albert Rivera.

Snap elections are very unusual in Spain – this is only the second one since the return of Spanish democracy in 1975. What caused the government to take this unusual step?

Elections should have been called when the previous government fell due to corruption cases within the People’s Party. Cs expressed its intention to support a no-confidence motion against the previous government in exchange for the socialists to hold snap elections and let citizens vote for a new parliament.

The socialists refused to do this, and they instead relied on support from the populists and nationalists to try and secure a government. That government was nowhere close to a parliamentary majority and therefore was rather weak. When they put their first national budget to a vote, that weakness was evidenced and they were forced to hold elections. 9 months lost for Spanish citizens!

With the election fast approaching, what are the most important issues for the Spanish voters?

Spanish voters still see unemployment as their main concern. Despite macroeconomic trends have been good for the past years, labour market in Spain is still dysfunctional. The People’s Party and the Socialists have been unable to put the right reforms in place to end labour insecurity.

What are the most significant conflicts in the election?

In October 2017, the former leaders of the Catalan secessionists directly confronted the rule of law in Spain, violating the rights of Spanish citizens - especially those in Catalonia. Now they are undergoing a judicial process to clarify their responsibilities. However, the socialists decided to try and govern with them, as they and the PP had been doing for 40 years. But things are no longer the same they were, after that date.

That is one of the main issues of the election, since it touches upon one of the core notions of liberal democracy: the rule of law, the respect for legal procedures and the rights of citizens no matter where they live.

Which are the most important issues for the Ciudadanos campaign?

Despite the main issue in the campaign being the support of populists and nationalists to the old parties on the left and right, Cs also wants to present its own project. We have proven to be bold and we have pushed for reforms wherever we had political representation. For example, we want to reform our labour market, combining flexibility and security for Spaniards to be able to better develop their talents.

We also want to ensure the sustainability of our welfare system. Cs wants to provide incentives for families to have children, and wants to make it easier for start-ups to emerge and grow bigger in Spain. Finally, we also want to bridge the gap between cities and the countryside to guarantee the equality of rights and services of all Spaniards, no matter where they live.

In Spain, like in most of Europe, we have recently seen a Eurosceptic right-wing populist party rising in the polls. How has this affected the political landscape? What are the attitudes of other parties towards Vox? In Sweden the split attitudes towards the right-wing populist party recently caused a record-long period of negotiations before a government could be formed. Is there a risk for similar post-electoral complications in Spain?

Spain already had populists and nationalists before, with the likes of Podemos and the regional nationalists in Catalonia, the Basque Country or Valencia. They were already using the same tactics and discourses of populists and nationalists elsewhere, and they have managed to garner support among those who feel disenchanted with the current state of affairs by claiming to bring down the establishment. The emergence of VOX is yet another example of that very same phenomenon.

For now, VOX has only managed to get seats in the regional parliament of Andalusia. There, the People’s Party and Ciudadanos signed a coalition agreement full of modernising, reformist policies to put in place after 40 years of socialist rule. In that case, VOX provided support to the PP-Cs regional government, but they had no influence whatsoever in the coalition agreement. It is hard to foresee what might happen, since the electorate is very volatile and there is a huge number of undecided voters. We will see after the elections once we have a clear picture of the parliament Spanish voters want.