Spain’s Election Showdown

Crises create opportunities. That's the story of European politics over the past decade, and Spain offers an especially interesting case in point.

On Sunday, Spanish voters will go to the polls in the country's third national election in less than four years. Gone are the days when just two parties (center-right and center-left) dominated Spain's national political landscape. As in other EU countries, the economic spiral and resulting demand for austerity triggered by Europe's sovereign debt crisis, and then a tidal wave of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, have boosted new parties and players. Catalan separatists have added to Spain's political turmoil.


This weekend's elections will feature candidates from:

  • The Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), the center-left party now heading a minority government
  • The People's Party (PP), the center-right party ousted from power last June following a vote of no-confidence
  • Ciudadanos, a pro-business party that has drifted from the center to the right
  • Podemos, an anti-austerity party of the far-left
  • Vox, an anti-immigrant party of the far-right

Polling suggests the Socialists, who've been in control of the government since a no-confidence vote ousted the center-right government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in June, will keep power. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has boosted the party's popularity by reversing cuts to social programs, boosting the minimum wage, and launching an effort to remove the body of former dictator Francisco Franco from an extravagant memorial outside Madrid.

In addition, the Socialists benefit from a splintering on the right among the PP, Ciudadanos, and Vox—and from fears the center-right PP can't form a government without a coalition that includes Vox, a party best known for hating migrants and feminists and loving bullfights. It's about to become the first far-right party to hold seats in Spain's parliament since Franco died in 1975.

It's also possible the Socialists will win but prove unable to form a government. If so, we'll be doing all this again in a few months. Fortunately, Spain's strengthening economy seems oblivious to its increasingly fragmented and contentious politics.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

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Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

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Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

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27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

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