05 December 2011
The fourth force in Spanish politics: Voto en Blanco
En masse the PSOE supporters abandoned their party with 4.4 million previous voters rejecting the socialists. The majority abstained, others stayed on the left with Izquierda Unida, which rose from two to 11 seats and its vote hit 6.9 per cent – but – and this is the key point only 550,000 of those dissatisfied voters went to the PP. Hence it wasn't a mass endorsement of the Partido Popular but a mass rejection of PSOE.
It is in to this scenario that Voto en Blanco entered with the blank votes accounting for the fourth largest amount in the general election. In the election for Spain's Upper House, the Senado, there were 1,263,120 which equates to 5.37 per cent of the electorate and also three times as many as registered a blank vote in 2008 when it was 2.06 per cent. In the Lower House, Congreso, the blank votes reached 333,095 or 1.37 per cent against 1.11 in 2008.
To the total of blank votes – 1,596,215 – has to be added the sum of 97,706 for the political group Escaños en Blanco. Their electoral promise was that if their candidates were elected to parliament they would not take their seats as a protest and rejection of the unjust Spanish political system which they claim is anti-democratic.
The result of the Voto en Blanco, along with those who abstained and submitted spoiled votes, shows the overall discontentment of the Spanish people with the political system and the offerings of the various parties. The increase in this protest vote has been notable but it is insufficient because it was overshadowed by the immense wave of rejection of PSOE.
This was the major tendency in the 2011 general election, with voters turning their backs on outgoing premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his successor Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. They were humiliated and suffered the worst result for the socialists since the death of Franco and now PSOE needs to enter a period of deep reflection.
Traditionally and importantly the Voto en Blanco represents a frontal protest by those citizens against the various electoral offerings presented by the parties but, and this is the important part, who refuse to renounce their right to vote and be part of the democratic process. A right earned by Spanish society through force and bloodshed.
(The above article appeared in the London Progressive Journal on Saturday December 3 2011)