Polyamory takes over politics: the parties pass, but the multiparty system remains


How strange to talk about love in politics when what spreads is something else, but it is that Spanish public life is a hasty succession of cycle changes. We started to press the accelerator after 15M and for now we haven’t slowed down. Leaders succeed one another, parties emerge and succumb, and alliances are woven and unwoven ceaselessly. Everything is going so fast that it seems difficult to see background trends in a constantly changing landscape.

But behind that chain of names, acronyms and demoscopic dances there is a legacy of those convulsive days of 2011 that remain to this day: bipartisanship has not picked up the pace, and given the internal crisis that the PP is experiencing, it is difficult for do in the years to come.

Because yes, the 15M cycle languishes from a partisan perspective because both Podemos and Ciudadanos have ceased to be formations with aspirations to govern. In a few years they have gone from leading the polls to being reduced to a handful of seats. Now they are still useful as supports for the greats, but perhaps in a short time they will even stop being so.

However, from a structural perspective, his legacy remains: his arrival put an end to the era of majorities and alternation and gave way to a new reality in which variable geometry and agreements between many (and different) are necessary. . And that seems to be here to stay, although they are no longer in a prominent position.

The impact that both formations had on the national scene marked a change of cycle (this one) still unfinished. Compiling the national elections, understanding as such those in which all citizens turn out to vote at the same time (general, European and municipal), the decline in bipartisanship since its emergence is clearly appreciated. It was in the European elections of 2014, and for the first time the two big parties added less than half of the votes. Government monogamy is over.


The trend did not stop there. It is true that bipartisanship recovered some pulse after that first challenge, but its best mark since then was that of the 2016 general elections, the first electoral repetition, when they reached 55.64% of the votes. Until that date, the lowest hours of bipartisanship had been registered in the municipal elections of 1987, when they added 57.46% of the votes. In the first generals of 2019 they did not reach 44% between both forces.

The fall of bipartisanship, like love, goes by region. It is true that in those where there is a stronger sense of identity, there has always been an ecosystem of parties that has meant that the combined vote of PSOE and PP was not so relevant. Wow, they had their dalliances on their own. But even in those regions the setback has been notorious, and it can be appreciated if the results of the last regional elections held are compared with those prior to that 2014 in which the cycle changed.

In the Basque Country, for example, bipartisanship went from adding 30.48% of the votes in the 2012 regional elections to staying at 20.42% in the last ones that were held, back in 2020. In the Canary Islands they went from adding 53 % in 2011 to stay at 44% in 2019.


The phenomenon is also repeated in regions with opposite dynamics, that is, in those where bipartisanship has always been strong. The most monogamous, politically speaking. In Castilla-La Mancha they went from adding 91.51% of the votes in 2011 to staying at 72.6% in 2019. In Extremadura they went from 89.7% in 2011 to 74.25% in 2019. Wow, what yes, there are areas where bipartisanship continues to be hegemonic, but losing up to a fifth of its votes in ten years. The relationship survives, but with wear.

The regions in which there are hardly any variations are the least. These are Catalonia or Asturias (where bipartisanship has lost less than one percentage point in these years), Navarra (barely two points) or the national exception marked by Galicia: it is the only territory in which bipartisanship has grown, going from 66.41% from 2012 to 67.35% in 2020. There are always those who get married, even if the marriage rate plummets.

The current regional map, with few exceptions, is pending renewal. In fact, in up to eight regions the first force after PSOE and PP is Ciudadanos, which has almost disappeared, in addition to Podemos, which is the first force in one. The demographic reality marks a very different panorama right now, where Vox would surely gain more strength, which is only the first alternative force to bipartisanship in a region. And it is just about Castilla y León, the last to hold elections. There’s a new date in town.


It is difficult to try to predict what the map will be like in 2023, when almost all regions are called to vote and there will also be general elections. But three keys give clues about what can happen. First, that although Podemos and Ciudadanos have lost weight, Vox has gained it. Second, that the phenomenon of the Empty Spain can flood the Congress with small local formations that subtract even more weight from the big ones. Third, that the umpteenth crisis of the PP can even lead to bipartisanship ceasing to be what it is. It’s going to be like a bachelor party, but with seats.

After all, that last thing, about changing the bipartisanship partner, has already happened before. During the first two years of our democracy, the hegemonic parties were the UCD and the PSOE. Then, for 40 years the PSOE and the PP have been. Who knows if now it will be the PSOE and Vox, or some other spouse.

Be that as it may, bipartisanship has not been systemic for eight years. The only thing that survives the passage of time, with its ups and downs, seems to be the PSOE, and that social democracy was in decline. At least for now, who knows what happens in a few years.