Navigating the upcoming Spanish Elections

by Javier Terrero Dávila
Adapting to new realities and finding opportunity amongst the challenges

Political uncertainty is not new in Spain. With the upcoming general elections on 28 April, Spanish people will have voted three times in the last four years for their Members of Parliament and their Senators.

Due to the increasing fragmentation of the political space, no government has managed to remain in power for long.

In some countries, this political fragmentation has been resolved by the emergence of a major centrist catch-all party, such as Macron’s En Marche! in France. In others, the establishment of governing coalitions between Christian democrats and socialists, such as the German grand coalition, have allowed “business as usual” to continue.

Yet, Spain is different. The conservative Partido Popular (PP) and the governing in minority Socialist Party (PSOE) have ruled out any coalition in the future government. Furthermore, as polls stand today, neither a left block (PSOE + far left Unidos Podemos) nor a plausible right block (PP + liberal Ciudadanos +  neoconservative Vox) would manage the absolute majority on 28 April. If these challenges were not disruptive enough to the political scene, the renewal and transformation of traditional parties to compete with radical newcomers is increasing the turnover of legislators. 

Turning uncertainty into new opportunities

In this context, many would say that public affairs strategies lack any tangible activities to hold on to. However, in a Europe in which political majorities are slowly fading away, a new approach to public policy can transform political uncertainty into opportunities. Any successful strategy must contain at least three elements to take advantage of this new landscape.

To begin with, public affairs professionals should deploy initiatives that can be attractive for parties across the political spectrum. Indeed, the fact that there is no absolute majority means that advocates need to diversify their contacts and find original ways to convince different parties of their stake in an initiative. On the other hand, more plurality makes campaigns less dependent on a single political force and vetoing an idea becomes harder. Furthermore, the existence of several relevant parties facilitates a bandwagon effect.

Secondly, greater electoral competition implies that policy-makers are more willing to listen to stakeholder groups, as these are an attractive source of votes. To fully take advantage of this, public affairs strategies should give more voice to different groups of stakeholders when promoting policy initiatives and link ongoing strategies to electoral priorities.

Finally, the increasing turnover of legislators is a risk for public affairs strategies, as on-going initiatives can be paralysed when leading political voices leave. Despite this undeniable risk, renewed legislators will always generate opportunities to set new legislative priorities. This means it is important to diversify networks and approach parties’ sectoral leaders. This will guarantee that proposals do not become the priority of a particular legislator but rather a party goal, facilitating the hand over of proposals when key legislators leave.

Nobody can deny that political uncertainty in Spain is a long-lasting reality. However, it is misleading to assume that  Spain’s uncertainty is necessarily bad for public affairs. If the right approach is taken, perhaps there is no better time to have an impact in Spanish policy landscape. If you want to make the most of this opportunity, the colleagues at RPP Group are looking forward to helping you make the most of this challenging but potentially promising landscape.

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