The division of the left flies over each electoral date as an alert mechanism and as a slogan that tries to push the different political actors towards unity. As a recurring theme, it is endlessly theorized and has many examples and practical experiences that can point the way to what can happen when progressive formations divide.
There is still no known date for holding a general election, but the debates on the left (and not only on the left) already have echoes of a electoral campaign that will last practically throughout 2023a year in which regional and municipal (in May) and state elections will be held.
United We Can, the main space to the left of the PSOE, is immersed in a reconfiguration process that appeals to all the actors and parties in some way and that revolves around the figure of Yolanda Díaz and her project, Sumar. The tensions of recent months and the distancing between Díaz and Podemos has meant that the purple formation no longer lends itself to being diluted in this reconfiguration to light up a new space, in the first place; since they do not guarantee that the second vice president will be their candidate in any case and under any circumstances.
The objective, expressed by the leaders of Podemos on various occasions, is to wait for the Minister of Labor to agree on her project, listen to her proposal and negotiate the formation of a coalition that can compete in the general elections. At the moment, Díaz has not even revealed if she would be a candidate in an election.
The experts consulted by Public agree that the scenario of division of the left into two candidacies is “unlikely” and that, in any case, it is too soon to know how the relations between the electoral translation of Sumar (if it finally takes place) and Podemos will develop. However, they do warn that the risks of division are well known and that they basically respond to two elements: mathematics and electoral law, on the one hand; and the impact on voter behavior, on the other.
Two candidacies to the left of the PSOE would divide the vote in all the provinces and would complicate the obtaining of seats in a distribution in which, in addition, the space for Unidas Podemos will dispute many seats in Congress with the extreme right of Vox.
The Andalusian experience
Paz Alvareztechnical director of Key Dataexplains that “a single party to the left of the PSOE drags more than if it has to divide the vote, that is pure electoral mathematics; in Madrid it would not be so noticeable, but in many small constituencies neither of the two would come out. That, and that we would have elections in which two parties on the right are fighting for votes, because Ciudadanos seems to be out of contention, they compete with three on the left that are fighting for their vote more”.
The professor of Political Sciences of the UNED jamie pastor He assures that two candidacies to the left of the PSOE would cause “a lot of lost votes; in the small provinces, of course, but also in the not-so-small ones.” Both experts agree that Andalusia is a practical and recent example of the effects of a divided left, since its population size and the fact that it has small provinces that distribute very few seats, and large provinces that bring together a large number of them, shares certain similarities with general ones.
Some estimates show that if For Andalusia and Forward Had they run together in the regional elections in June, they could have obtained between five and seven more seats, winning seats in most of the provinces (and subtracting them from formations like Vox or the PP in some of them).
In the last general elections, those of November 2019, two candidates to the left of the PSOE also presented themselves, although not in all the provinces: United We Can and the More Country of Íñigo Errejón (allied with other formations in some territories).
Together, Errejón and Unidas Podemos would have been the third political force in votes, ahead of Vox. However, the unity would hardly have meant the addition of a couple of more seats (one secure for Alicante, and another probable and disputed in Barcelona). In the rest of the provinces where Unidas Podemos lost seats, even with Errejón’s votes, those of Pablo Iglesias were quite far from getting a seat.
But the risks of division are not just mathematical, nor are they strictly related to electoral law. The experts warn that the fact of the concurrence of two different candidacies presupposes a disagreement and a conflict that can provoke a important demobilization in the progressive electorate.
“There is an aggravating circumstance and it is that people he doesn’t like divisions. That demobilizes because if you see them fight, and the campaigns are the campaigns, it generates a lot of demobilization among the leftist electorate. Even without going into demobilization, mathematically it is enormously damaging,” insists Álvarez. “If they were separated, that would encourage abstention in a sector of the left, without a doubt,” adds Pastor.
In any case, the UNED professor sees, at least for the moment, the scenario of the two candidacies as far away, in the absence of the reconfiguration process of the left and Díaz’s project being developed. “Really, between Podemos and Yolanda Díaz’s Sumar no substantial political differences are perceived. There may be differences in tactics, but not substantial enough to be separated.”
“I, right now, would speak more of a competition between the two to see who arrives with a stronger position than the prospect that they will go separately. The threat of the extreme right and the electoral systemas well as the absence of substantial political differences, will put brutal pressure on them to go together,” concludes the expert.