A non-partisan journal of the left.

The fourth force in Spanish politics: Voto en Blanco

Thu 1st Dec 2011

Following the recent Spanish general election there is now a fourth force in the nation’s politics. The new party of government, the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) obtained the largest proportion of votes (44.6%), followed by the outgoing socialist PSOE (28.7%), the far-left Izquierda Unida (6.9%) and then the Voto en Blanco – those who submitted blank votes as a symbol of protest.

En masse the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) supporters abandoned their party with 4.4 million previous voters rejecting the Socialists. The majority abstained, others stayed on the left with Izquierda Unida, which increased its share of parliamentary seats from two to eleven. However, only 550,000 of the dissatisfied voters went to the PP. Hence it wasn’t a mass endorsement of the PP, but rather a mass rejection of PSOE.

It is in to this scenario that Voto en Blanco entered with the blank votes, accounting for the fourth largest collection in the general election. In the election for Spain’s Upper House, the Senado, there were 1,263,120 blank votes, equating to 5.37% of the electorate or three times as many as registered a blank vote in 2008. In the Lower House, Congreso, the blank votes tallied 333,095, or 1.37%, slightly more than in 2008.

To the total of blank votes – 1,596,215 – has to be added the sum of 97,706 for the political group Escaños en Blanco. Their electoral promise was that if their candidates were elected to parliament they would not take their seats as a protest in rejection of the unjust Spanish political system which they claim is anti-democratic.

The result of the Voto en Blanco, along with those who abstained and submitted spoiled votes, shows the overall discontentment of the Spanish people with the political system and the various parties on offer. The increase in this protest vote is notable, but it is overshadowed by the immense wave of rejection of PSOE.

The major tendency of the 2011 general election was that voters turned their backs on outgoing premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his successor Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. They were humiliated and suffered the worst result for the Socialists since the death of Franco. The PSOE now needs to enter a period of deep reflection.

Importantly, the Voto en Blanco represents a citizens' protest against the various parties on offer and, at the same time, reaffirms their right to vote and be part of the democratic process. A right earned by Spanish society through force and bloodshed.
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