Spain at the halfway point of 2022, and the direction it’s heading in 2023 with a general election on the horizon.
During his summer vacation, Michael McCleary returned to Spain on the eve of the first post-Franco general election, a campaign which saw most Spaniards vote for the very first time. “I remember some voting for (Adolfo) Suárez because he was the most handsome candidate!” he says.
45 years later, and with a list of domestic and international crises as long as his basketballer arms, current Spain prime minister Pedro Sánchez would fancy his chances of securing a second term a lot more if, like the June of 1977, physical image took precedence over fiscal matters among the electorate.
Compared to Superman after his television appearance in the United States a year ago (there’s even a parody Twitter account to his Mr. Handsome persona), things are not going well for Spain’s charming man at home.
In France, we saw Sánchez’s Brussels chum Emmanuel Macron ride high in April before being shot down in June. Sánchez, however, faces a far sterner test than Marine Le Pen. While Macron was able to beat the “It’s Me or the extreme right” drum, the recent U-turn of Spain´s conservative party, the Partido Popular, back towards the centre under new leadership has robbed Sánchez of one of his go-to plays.
The appointment of the moderate Alberto Núñez Feijóo to replace the erratic Pablo Casado was perhaps an uninspiring and unsexy choice, but it was bad news for Sánchez.
The consensus now in Spain is that he will enter election year as the outsider.
It has been an exhausting five years in Spain: multiple general elections, a pandemic now approaching its third year, natural disasters ranging from a devastating volcano to wildfires and earthquakes, a migrant crisis, transport strikes and food shortages, the incessant mudslinging and personal insults in parliament. Now, many Spaniards are feeling the sharp pinch of double-figure inflation for the first time.