I'm away in Cantabria for the weekend and I will be sitting on a train heading back to Madrid when the election results start being announced on Sunday evening. Assuming that I haven't taken the exile option of the ferry from Santander if things are looking really grim. But where do you escape to these days anyway? My absence means that there'll be none of that live blogging nonsense here on Sunday, but you will be able to see the results as they are announced (and in English!) courtesy of this widget from El País. From 20:00 Spanish time onwards. In the meantime it shows the results from the 2008 election.
So what are the things to look out for. An absolute majority, which all the latest polls have predicted for the Partido Popular, requires 176 seats in the Congreso. Any failure to hit that mark would be regarded as a bad result for the PP given the expectation that they will easily pass it. For the governing PSOE the aim above all is to avoid a result similar, or worse than, that which they obtained in 2000. In that election they got only 125 seats. If Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba does better than that this time he will feel that he has salvaged something from the election. Again, many polls have predicted that the PSOE result could be worse than this.
The PSOE cling to the hope that many of the undecided will swing their way and that they can buck the trend of the polls, as they did quite spectacularly in 1993 and 1996. In different circumstances. There will be no dramatic resignation announcements from the PSOE if things go really badly. Rubalcaba is not the party leader, just the candidate. Zapatero is still in charge of the party and it's expected that in the event of defeat he will soon announce a special congress of the party to choose a new leader.
Let's assume that the polls are more or less accurate. In this case much of the interest lies in where the disenchanted switch their votes to. Izquierda Unida, the main party to the left of the PSOE, has high hopes of obtaining a significant number of seats including several outside of Barcelona and Madrid which are the areas they were reduced to at the last election. IU argues that the technicalities of the electoral system mean that they are competing directly with the PP for seats in several regions. Barring absolute shocks, 15 seats would be an excellent result for them, 10 would still be good but anything closer to the 2 that they got in 2008 would be a major disappointment.
What we could call a weathervane party (blowing the way the political wind blows), UPyD have hopes of capturing more seats than the single one they currently hold. Their best chances are in Madrid. No polls that I have seen suggest they will win seats elsewhere. Their hope is that some of those who have abandoned the PSOE but can't stomach the PP will opt for them. The new eco-socialist party Equo will be happy if it ends up with a single representative (possible with an alliance in Valencia) and delighted if they manage to capture any more in Madrid or Barcelona.
Looking at the regions, the result in Cataluña will be interesting. The PSC, Catalan wing of the PSOE, is still predicted to be the first party here, although both Convergència i Unió and the PP are not far behind. This is a region where the PP have done spectacularly badly since Aznar's time, the fact that they stand a chance of taking second place is astonishing. In Andalucia the PP is predicted to win easily against the PSOE, and such a result will represent a major change in the region that, together with Cataluña, provided the PSOE with sufficient additional representatives to govern in 2004 and 2008.
One other very interesting result will be in the Basque Country. This is where the recent declaration by ETA of a definitive end to violence can be expected to have a direct electoral impact. In the rest of the country it has hardly been a campaign issue. The battle is on to see whether the PNV can maintain their position as the major nationalist party against Amaiur, the new coalition including those who were formerly supporters of ETA's political wing Batasuna. The new political climate in that region may also affect the share of the vote for the PSOE and PP, in the case of the former they may even buck the national trend.
Anyway, I'm not going to make any predictions, I've got ferry timetables to check.