There is no single reason to explain the outcome of an election in a mature democracy. But in the Valencian case there are three reasons that, in my opinion, help to understand the result: the collapse of Podemos, the significant loss of citizen support for Compromís and the fact that they were considered as a first round of general elections.
The collapse of Podemos, in addition to evidencing a certain rejection of some of its national leaders and some of its initiatives promoted by the central government, shows the difficulty of building from the left of social democracy consistent alternatives with a vocation for government throughout Western Europe and even beyond. There is plenty of fuel in the form of diffuse malaise, and even resentment and anger against the system, within our fractured, insecure and unequal societies. But until now it has materialized in fragmented and ephemeral social movements and has not translated into lasting support for political options born to the left of social democracy.
Secondly, the loss of support for Compromís refers to the old, but not old, discussion about our history, our social structure, the role of the elites and the difficult construction of a project identity in a complex country. Thirdly, and perhaps it is the question that has weighed the most on the result, the president of the government has made, in my opinion, a serious mistake by accepting the conservative party's strategy of presenting the campaign as a first round and as a plebiscite on its continuation. An error that has been a great injustice with the government's management of the Botànic and with dozens of mayors by focusing citizen attention on the degree of support or rejection of President Sánchez. The most notable consequence, in addition to achieving a significant mobilization of the world of the right, has been a significant and very expressive increase in abstention. Beyond the impact that the design of the campaign in the key of the first round and the issues that have focused the discussion may have had on part of the electorate, a large part of the “active” abstentions wanted to send a clear message of reproach to the world of left.
The surprise call for new general elections shows three underlying trends or worrying symptoms. In the first place, the risk of increasing trivialization of our democracy and increasing polarization and tension encouraged from the leadership of the parties and from some media that ignore their essential role in democracies. They know how to activate those springs of human behavior that separate us, that confront us and that make us worse people. This drift is very worrying. At some point, this path has no return and then the governability of a compound State with a high level of complexity will become increasingly difficult.
Second, beyond their well-known neoliberal agenda, there is a risk that the conservative party will be tainted by the discourse of a rapidly normalizing extreme right in Spain. There may come a time when dark blue and denim blue are indistinguishable. It has already happened in other European conservative parties, all of them inspired by the "anti-system" drift of broad sectors of the current US Republican Party and by the illiberal narrative of the ultra-conservative parties of Hungary and Poland that question the values and social rights of the "old Europe". Going so far as to sow doubts about the cleanliness of the electoral process. This is another great risk for coexistence and governability in Spain. And let's not forget that we are talking about the fourth largest economy in the EU and the fourteenth largest economy in the world.
Thirdly, the way in which the PSOE now conducts itself makes it unrecognizable. A political party with a long federal tradition has become an organization that seems more inspired by a model in which decisions are taken on a personal basis, in fact circumventing the decision-making bodies and processes. A strategic decision of great importance such as an early call for general elections, without prior knowledge of its management bodies or regional presidents, without discussing the decision and without assessing the convenience or not of Sánchez himself being the candidate again Despite his level of rejection, he shows worrying symptoms.
Alternation is a sign of democratic normality. The task of the world of the left now consists of building an alternative with a vocation to once again achieve social majorities in this new time. Focused on the common good, on everything that continues to be "solid" and far from the so-called culture wars and disputes over supposed stories whose expiration date only lasts a few months. We are living in times of institutional fatigue, of retreat, of growing disaffection and risk of political “disconnection”, of confusion and a widespread feeling of insecurity. The growing polarization will not bring anything good to our societies and neither to the world of the left.
Dialogue and agreement should be fundamental attributes of that alternative. Because democracy is conflict, but it is also the creation of spaces for deliberation, dialogue and pact. And above all, it is much more than casting a vote in a ballot box. Michael Ignatieff reminded us of this in this newspaper when he stated "...we do not understand what democracy is: we think that they are elections and government of the majority, but democracy is control of power, keeping people free, democracy is La Vanguardia, the press , the universities, the supreme courts, power to the people in the streets. Majority rule balanced by counter-majority power.