MADRID — MADRID (AP) — Spain’s elections Sunday will be a battle between two leftist and two rightist parties that are teaming up to form potential coalitions. Here is a glance at the four leaders of those parties.
Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister since 2018, is facing reelection with recent ballots and most of polls against him.
The Socialist party leader has steered Spain through the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a successful vaccination program and dealt with an inflation-driven economic downturn made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But his dependency on fringe parties, including separatist forces from Catalonia and the Basque Country, to keep his minority coalition going and his passing of a slew of liberal-minded laws, may cost him his job.
Sánchez, known for his dashing looks and his progressive credentials that include having more women than men in his Cabinet and a strong environmental policy record, has boosted Spain’s status in Brussels. The 51-year-old is also fluent in English, a skill his predecessors lacked.
But the snap election called after the Socialists and their far-left coalition partners took a beating in local and regional elections in May may be an all-or-nothing gamble.
Sánchez has embarked on a flurry of interviews in Spanish media and held rallies across Spain, hoping that he can pull off yet another surprise and stay in office. His chances will depend on mobilizing a demoralized left.
A former basketball player and economics professor, Sánchez and his wife have two daughters.
ALBERTO NÚÑEZ FEIJÓO
Tipped to lead his right-wing Popular Party to victory, Alberto Núñez Feijóo has had a meteoric rise in popularity since he took charge of the party in April, 2022 following an internal feud that toppled his predecessor, Pablo Casado.
A former civil servant who won four consecutive regional elections in his native northwest Galicia — a traditional stronghold for the Popular Party — Feijóo was initially portrayed as a moderate.
But with elections suddenly called and the far-right Vox party making inroads, he has moved notably to the right, promising to repeal many of the leftist government’s laws and being more aggressive in his campaign to unseat Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
Feijóo, 62, has been accused of fudging on whether he will form a coalition with Vox, lying about the Popular Party’s record on pensions and trying to play down ties to a Spanish drug trafficker with whom he was photographed sunbathing on a yacht some years ago.
Bespectacled and with the look of a bank manager, Feijóo is heir to the late Manuel Fraga, a fellow Galician and one-time top politician in the former Franco dictatorship. Fraga founded Alianza Popular, the Popular Party’s predecessor.
Experts speak of Feijóo’s affable manner, sense of humor and talents as an organizer. But others say he demonstrated an irritated and somewhat superior attitude when cornered by one of Spanish television’s top journalists, Silvia Intxaurrondo.
Feijóo has also served as director of the state health service and national postal company.
He and his partner have one child.
Santiago Abascal, the 47-year-old leader of the far-right Vox party, likes to style himself as an outsider who has arrived on a mission to save Spain’s soul.
He was a lifelong member of the Spain’s mainstream Popular Party until he broke with the conservatives for what he considered their “cowardly” handling of the separatist movements in Catalonia and his native Basque Country. It was the failed secession bid by Catalonia in 2017 that fueled Vox’s rise. Founded in 2014, it entered Spain’s Parliament in 2019 when tensions in the streets of Barcelona and across Catalonia were still common.
Bearded and barrel-chested, Abascal always wears suits while attending Parliament. He embraces the classic, even the kitsch, symbols of traditional Spanish culture.
While the country slowly turns away from bullfighting, he and Vox defend it. While most party’s hail Spain’s transition to democracy from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the late 1970s, Abascal defends the nationalistic values of the regime. While the rest of Spain’s political parties unite against gender violence, Abascal’s Vox wants to repeal gender violence laws and slams feminism. Critics also accuse him of fearmongering about unauthorized migration.
Add some mild anti-European Union sentiment, and Vox is allied with other far-right movements on the rise in Europe.
Abascal is now on the cusp of what would be his greatest victory: becoming a deputy prime minister of Spain and placing some of his other hardline cohorts in ministerial roles. To do so, Vox will likely need to remain the third-largest force in Spain’s Parliament and hope that the Popular Party wins the elections but falls short of an absolute majority.
Abascal, who holds a degree in sociology, has four children.
The only woman among the main four candidates in Sunday’s election, Yolanda Díaz, 52, is the daughter of working class, trade union and anti-Franco dictatorship activists. She hails from the small northwestern Galician town of Fene.
Cutting a dashing figure with her mane of dyed blond hair and stylish clothes, she has been labor minister and in 2021 became second deputy prime minister to premier Pedro Sánchez.
A labor lawyer by training, she is known for her ability to broker agreements such as the industrial peace deal she forged with unions and business groups, as well negotiating increases in the minimum wage and a special furlough scheme for companies during the coronavirus pandemic.
She is consistently ranked as among the country’s most popular politicians.
Believing that Podemos has alienated many on the left, she formed a broad civilian movement called Sumar this year that has since managed to bring 15 small leftist parties, including Podemos, under its umbrella.
She showed she has a tough side by refusing to include colleague and friend, Equality Minister Irene Montero whose reputation was severely marred by a sexual consent law that inadvertently allowed more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders to have their sentences reduced, and over 100 to gain early release.
Díaz’s aim is to finish in third place Sunday so that Sumar can help the Socialists form another leftist coalition. Polls place Sumar slightly behind far-right Vox.
Sumar proposes more tax for big businesses and the wealthy, a state-funded 20,000-euro payment (about $22,000) for everyone turning 18 to help with studies and measures to help hard-pressed people get to the end of the month.
Joseph Wilson and David Brunat contributed from Barcelona, Spain.