Local and regional elections in the Spanish state on 24 May saw a significant battering for the mainstream conservative Popular Party (PP) and Socialist Party (PSOE), as well as significant advances for anti-austerity and social movement forces.
The PP vote dropped from 37 percent in the last equivalent elections to 27 percent. It lost 2.5 million votes.
Much of its municipal base (and the perks that go with it) was destroyed. In the regions it has already lost Extremadura, Valencia and the Balearic Islands and may lose La Mancha, Aragon and Cantabria depending on what coalitions can be built by left parties.
In Navarra its right wing allies may also be ousted. In Madrid region, Castille, Leon and Murcia it has lost its majority and will rely on other right wing parties to hold on.
In many provincial capital cities, PP strongholds for decades, the story is the same. Previously unassailable fiefdoms are falling because of anger at six years of economic crisis, vicious austerity programmes and flagrant corruption.
The new right wing populist party, Ciudadanos, took only 6.5 percent nationally.
The PSOE also lost out, down from 27 percent to 25 percent with a loss of 700,000 votes.
It will now have to form alliances with other left groups to run provinces.
The two-party establishment that has dominated the Spanish state since the transition to democracy is on the rocks.
The most spectacular results were registered in Madrid city council and in Barcelona, but there were several other very significant shifts where left campaigns based on the social movements and the left parties made huge breakthroughs.
Barcelona’s first woman mayor will be Ada Colau, long-time anti-eviction campaigner and candidate for Barcelona Together, an organisation based in the social movements and now able to take control in alliance with the Republican Left and radical left Popular Unity.
The total vote to the left of the PSOE equivalent in Barcelona leapt to almost 44 percent.
The coalition of the left in Madrid, Madrid Now, won 32 percent and 20 seats and should wrest control from the right in alliance with the PSOE. There were other huge left votes: 25 percent in Zaragoza, 31 percent in A Coruna, 35 percent in Santiago, 28 percent in Cadiz.
Across the country the vote to the left of the PSOE was between 20 and 25 percent, best where election campaigns united social movement and non-party activists with Podemos and United Left.
Podemos stood as itself in the regions, but was part of joint left campaigns in municipal elections. It mounted strong challenges to the PSOE for the left vote, but beat it only in Navarra and the Basque Country. Its vote was at around 15 to 20 percent generally.
The left has made great advances. It now has to decide how to contest the November general election, with some hard choices about how to organise the campaign.
It also has to expand the resistance to austerity and keep the mobilisations moving — not focus solely on elections.
These results should inspire us to face up to the question of how we organise the same challenge to austerity here in Britain.