Takeaways from the Elections in France, Spain, and Colombia
This commentary was originally published in Spanish in El Nacional on June 22, 2022.
This past Sunday, three electoral processes were held that will mark the future of France, Spain, and Colombia.
The French sanctioned Emmanuel Macron during the second round of parliamentary elections. His coalition, Ensemble, won more deputies than the rest of the parties, but fell short of the absolute majority it once had.
Ensemble lost more than 100 seats from the 2017 election to win a meager 244 out of 577, according to the official count, with 100 percent of the vote accounted for. After governing for a five-year term without counterpowers, the French president would be forced to seek alliances in a National Assembly with the far-left populist opposition—the first opposition force—called the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (socialists, ecologists, and communists) led by Jean-Luc Melénchon, or with the extreme right, which is on the rise, called National Rally led by Marine Le Pen. The country has two alternatives: learn the culture of consensus, uncommon in the French presidential system, or be forced into ungovernability. France has entered uncharted territory.
After a three-hour meeting with Macron, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said that this situation constitutes a risk for France "given the challenges both nationally and internationally."
The voter turnout of 46.3 percent of French people sends a signal to Macron: to limit his presidential power. He will no longer be able to command alone. His program of reforms like that of pensions is on hold and it is not certain that he will have the necessary majorities to implement it. Likewise, his strategic ability to win elections is in question after the resounding victory, with a margin of 17 percent, in the presidential elections held seven weeks ago.
The new National Assembly will reflect the forces—center, populism of the left-wing alliance, and the far right—that have dominated French politics since Macron took power in 2017. Anti-establishment voices will increasingly be heard and will have a greater weight in parliament. Furthermore, social discontent will be reflected in the chamber. If Macron fails to form majorities, he has the possibility of dissolving the assembly and convening new legislatures. However, this could be the beginning of an era of political instability that has not been seen for several decades.
In the regional elections of Andalusia last Sunday, the Popular Party (Partido Popular, or PP) swept away with a historic victory. They won in all the provinces and major cities—Huelva, Jaén and, above all, Seville—where the Socialists had not lost a single election nor general election, be it autonomic, municipal, or European, until now. For the first time, the PP achieved absolute majority in the region. The 58 out of 109 seats held by the Popular Party are a milestone in a fiefdom that was dominated by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party since the birth of Spain’s democracy (1980).
In addition, Sunday’s results have an inevitable national interpretation for the parties with state implantation, which augurs a political change in the 2023 general elections. Thus, the results of the Andalusian autonomous region are considered the best representative sample of the vote to the Cortes Generales, so much so that there are 6.6 million potential votes that elect 17 percent of the 349 deputies to Congress.
For the first time, the left will access the presidency in Colombia after Sunday’s triumph obtained in the second round of elections by the former guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, of the Historic Pact coalition.
"From today Colombia changes, a real change that leads us to some of the approaches we have made from these town squares: the politics of love, a politics of understanding and dialogue,” Petro proclaimed in his victory speech. He added that peace, social justice, and environmentalism will be the axes of his government.
Thus, a polarized Colombia enters a new political era. One without a government led by traditional parties which were defeated in the first-round elections by the anti-system vote.
Petro's triumph has an impact that encompasses the Latin American region. It joins the leftist governments of Peru, Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Bolivia, and regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
"This story that we are writing right now is a new story for Colombia, for Latin America, for the world,” Petro said on the night of his triumph.
Despite his victory, the former M-19 leader may have difficulty enacting his most radical proposals. His coalition, Pacto Histórico, has only 15 percent of the seats in both houses of Congress.
So far, the president-elect holds the benefit of the doubt from Colombians and Hispanic Americans, although the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa said, "Hopefully, it will be an amendable and correctable accident in the most immediate future."
By Way of Conclusion
Sunday's election processes in France, Spain, and Colombia were the result of Macron's presidential way of governing, the pragmatism of Pedro Sánchez, and the disconnect between the leaders of traditional Colombian parties and the nations reality.
If they continue to act in the same way, France will face a crisis of governance, Spain will have a new PP government; and Colombia will be Petrist.
Antonio de la Cruz is a senior associate (non-resident) with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
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