A new generation of young and media-savvy men is vying to become Spain's next prime minister in the country's Sunday election. A deeply divided parliament is expected to emerge from the ballot, reflective much upon the nation, and whoever gets the most votes will likely need to sit down and negotiate a complicated governing alliance. The ballot will be Spain's third parliamentary election in less than four years, with no sign that the uncertainty will go away anytime soon.
Nationalists in Spain have been able to effectively exploit the vulnerable political landscape and are for the first time in decades starting to enjoy increasing popularity and political power.
Santiago Abascal is the scion of a family targeted by the now-defunct separatist group ETA in his native Basque region and the figurehead of one of the most viable nationalist parties in Spain, Vox. He made his career as a member of the Popular Party and now hopes he and others from his Vox party will become the first nationalist lawmakers to sit in parliament since the 1980s. The platform of Vox, which means voice in Latin, is to defend Spain from what it says are the dangers of separatism, mass immigration, radical feminism and regressive liberals. The 43-year-old Abascal unapologetically defends hunting, bullfighting and traditional and Catholic family values. The arms-bearing politician has also called for dropping strict gun controls, arguing that it should be the right of every man and woman in Spain on how they chose to defend themselves. He is perhaps the only major politician in Europe who has tapped into the controversial issue.
Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist party leader and incumbent prime minister, is aiming to pull off yet another unexpected political turnaround after he was forced to call an early election when his minority government failed to pass a national spending bill last February. Now, all polls forecast that the Socialists will overtake the conservative Popular Party by a hair, but it will be nowhere near a majority. That would be another surprising victory for Sánchez who temporarily lost his party leadership in 2016 in an internal spat following two crushing defeats in consecutive national elections.
Pablo Casado is facing his first election as head of the Popular Party, Spain's dominant conservative political force for the past three decades. The 38-year-old lawyer, who has made most of his career in politics, took over as party chief in July vowing to clean up party corruption with a zero-tolerance approach. Casado has been dragging the party toward more conservative ground and calling for a stronger stance on Catalan separatism. The goal is to prevent a flood of votes going to the center-right Citizens party, perceived as tougher on the Catalonia issue, and the nationalist Vox.
The 39-year-old Albert Rivera leads the Citizens. It began as a tiny party in Barcelona, created to fight the local Catalan secessionist movement, and it has now spread across Spain. Citizens' newcomer status is now threatened by the upstart Vox, which is also luring conservative voters. Pablo Iglesias was tipped to lead a leftist takeover of Spain in 2015. Now, the pony-tailed former TV politics commentator is struggling to keep his far-left United We Can party from breaking apart. United We Can has been wracked by in-fighting among its leaders and the polls show it may pay a heavy price.
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