Monday, March 17, 2008

Electoral Geography

Tying up the loose ends remaining from the Spanish general election, it’s time to take a brief look at how the country divides in its voting habits with respect to the two largest parties (PSOE and PP), and how the results don’t necessarily confirm popular perceptions of voting differences in different parts of the country.

In the case of the PP it is commonly assumed that their main power bases are regions like Castilla-Leon and Galicia. Villages that still stubbornly maintain their “Calle del Generalisimo” are thought to be the bastions of PP support. However, the reality now is that the real centre of power for the PP has shifted eastwards towards the Mediterranean. Add together the combined advantage of the PP over the PSOE in the whole of Castilla-Leon and Galicia and you get just five seats difference between the two parties. Then if you add to this the advantage gained in the noisily proclaimed PP victory in Madrid the total still only rises to eight. Well Valencia and Murcia combined give the PP a greater advantage than these other regions, making the Mediterranean belt lying between Cataluña and Andalucia their real stronghold.

For the PSOE their victory in the elections has been attributed to their overwhelming superiority in Cataluña, where they obtained seventeen more seats than the PP. That accounts for the national difference between the two major parties. However, if you take Cataluña out of the equation we are still left with a situation where the PSOE and PP are effectively level with each other in the rest of the country. It shouldn’t be forgotten, for example, that Andalucia provides the PSOE with significantly more members of parliament than Cataluña, despite PP advances in that region. Whilst the PP has become stronger in the east of the country, the PSOE has steadily improved its position in the north, especially in regions such as the Basque Country and Aragon. The party does not do as badly as is often imagined in the central heartlands of the two Castillas, and the PSOE in general has a stronger claim to be a truly national party in the breadth of its support.

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