Spain’s populists well-placed ahead of April 28 election

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (pictured) has called an early general election for April 28, with the chances of a nationalist, right-wing government looking high.

Sanchez, whose minority Socialist government has relied on a cumbersome coalition of regional and minor parties, called the election after his former Catalan allies defeating his budget last week.

Ever-unreliable opinion polls suggest no one party would win enough seats to govern alone, pointing to lengthy talks between three or more parties. The extreme-right, anti-immigration Vox party would be well-placed to enter a coalition.

Vox has enjoyed a surge, according to polling, in part due to its uncompromising stance on Catalan independence.

Sanchez addressed the nation, laying out his government’s achievements and saying he was seeking an increased majority to pursue a social reform agenda.

“Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance,” the reforming premier said.

Sanchez said the right-wing People’s Party and Ciudadanos had blocked numerous bills in parliament, including key reforms to reduce inequality.

The minority government has also taken impressive strides to boost renewable energy production in the sun-kissed country.

The current parliament means the Socialist government is unstable, with just 84 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies, and their main allies, the anti-austerity Podemos, having 67.

The left-wing Podemos, still the Socialists’ natural ally, is riven by infighting and struggling for support, according to polling.

But the biggest party is the conservative opposition Popular Party with 134 seats, which formed the previous government.

Spain, the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, emerged from an economic recession in 2013 but has seen growing volatility, driven by divisions over immigration, the independence drive in Catalonia and the emergence of populist parties.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of right-wingers protested in Madrid to demand an election.

Sanchez took office with the help of Catalan separatist parties amid a trial of 12 Catalan independence leaders that began on Tuesday. The dozen played a role in staging the controversial Catalan independence referendum in October 2017 and are charged with sedition and the misuse of public funds. Nine of the 12 are also accused of rebellion.

The accused Catalans see the trials as politicised. ‘‘This is a political trial, and I refuse to answer my accusers,’’ said Oriel Junqueras, former Catalan vice president. ‘‘I am a political prisoner and I am on trial for my ideas.’’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has achieved much during his short tenure. Picture credit: Wikimediaánchez_en_Mérida_(4).jpg

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