The Minister of Labor Yolanda Diaz and former MEP Manu Pineda attend the EU campaign of the Sumar coalition, May 23, 2024, Madrid.

Yolanda Díaz steps down from leadership of Sumar and Izquierda Unida fails to enter the European Parliament

María del Vigo

  • The Popular Party wins the elections by the narrowest of margins and the far right, split into two candidacies, wins 9 seats
  • The transformative left loses one seat
  • Voters from the Spanish state give 4 seats to The Left and 4 to the Greens.
  • The discourse against the genocide in Palestine was one of the main themes of the left-wing campaign

The election results in the Spanish State give a narrow victory to the Popular Party, which beat the Socialist Party by two seats. The clear victory is for the political tradition of two main parties, which garnered 64.37% of the votes overall. The ultra-right-wing VOX won 9.62%, comparable to its Portuguese counterpart, CHEGA, which obtained 9.79%  but still a far cry from Germany’s 15.60% for Alternative für Deutschland, Italy’s 28.59% for Fratelli d’Italia and France’s 31.36% for Rassemblement National.

In total, the Spanish right and far-right gained 48.38% of the votes.

Except for these parties, no other party or candidate managed to surpass the 5% that would have been required in a general election. The results cannot be used too much to draw conclusions on the national level, not least because these are the only Spanish elections to have a single constituency of voters, but they are symptomatic of the wider picture. The transformative left is not at its best right now. Sumar and Podemos have lost 880,000 votes compared to 2019.

Since the definitive split between Podemos and Sumar in December 2023, they seem to be fighting a strenuous duel for the hegemony in the left political space. There is a sense that only one will survive, and they have both made very direct attacks on the other party. Podemos has been doing this for months through its own alternative media channels. Sumar has made the mistake of doing it through the campaign. The results of the three regional elections held in 2024 seemed to portend an imminent end for Podemos. This 9th of June EU election, however, has served to revive the ‘purple party’.

Yolanda Díaz, third vice-president of the Government, Minister of Labor and —until June 9th— the leader of Sumar, stepped down after taking responsibility for what she considers poor results (which coincide with predictions by early polls) and after receiving harsh criticisms from Más País and Izquierda Unida. In a speech after elections on June 10, Diaz affirmed how “the citizenry has spoken and I must act in consequence.” She stated how the Internationale of Hate has taken a step forward, indicating the examples of Italy, France and Germany as the greatest expressions of this advance, and highlighted that this is a global problem, as demonstrated by the examples of Argentina, Israel and the probable future of the USA. We are, she said just before stepping down, “faced with a historic global challenge in which neither being on the defensive nor tying is good enough.” In her opinion, the only way to halt the advance of the extreme right is good governance, and she promised to dedicate all her energies to that. “If we uphold our promises, the forces of hate will lose their direction” she concluded.

With 4.65% of the vote, Sumar has managed to win one more seat than Podemos (3.27%) and has tied in seats gained with the far-right party Se Acabó la Fiesta; a last-minute candidacy, led by Alvise Pérez, a former advisor to Ciudadanos and alt-right agitator. He is the protagonist of a YouTube channel which started up during the pandemic to brand the government’s actions as dictatorial and to spread denialist theories. This is a candidate who, for example, has directly harassed Irene Montero, and who boasts of being judge, jury and executioner in identifying and publicly exposing rapists and paedophiles. Alvise has been ordered by the courts to pay restitution to his victims on numerous occasions. Now he has achieved 4.58% by a feat of sophistry, gaining him judicial protection and thereby hampering his pending criminal cases.

Sumar also came in behind the Ahora Repúblicas coalition, which brings together the left-wing pro-independence parties from Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and the Balearic Islands, and which obtained 4.93% of the votes.

Palestine at the heart of the campaign

The European election campaign was more about defending values than about specific initiatives, and was undoubtedly shaped by the situation in Palestine. The candidates of Podemos, Sumar, the pro-independence leftists within the Ahora Repúblicas candidature, and even the PSOE have demanded, to a greater or lesser extent and in different ways, an end to the genocide in Gaza.

This is no coincidence. According to the 2024 Barometer of the Elcano Royal Institute (BRIE) survey on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, published in mid-May, 60% of the Spanish population believe that the solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the existence of two separate states. A further 78% are in favour of the rapid recognition of the State of Palestine. 44% believe that Israel is responsible for the conflict, compared with 8% who believe that Palestine is responsible. Of those who hold Israel responsible, 76% are on the ideological left.

Podemos: from “it is what it is” to “yes we can”

Podemo’s campaign closely bound to the profile of Irene Montero — making it the party with the best-known candidate in these elections— ran on two fundamental messages: the affirmation of the transformative capacity of the left, and the need for peacebuilding.

The fact that the former Minister for Equality headed the list shows the party’s commitment to these elections, at a time when the internal party crisis and the international crisis coincide. Montero had been campaigning for months especially among the younger public, participating in various podcasts to discuss her work at the Ministry of Equality and the personal cost to her of being in politics. On social networks, her counterpoint to the expression ‘es lo que hay’ (it is what it is), commonly used to express resignation, was the leitmotif of her pre-election campaign. In the end, she managed to project an image of strength in this election campaign which stood out in contrast to her party’s poor results in the previous elections.

In the final stretch, at the electoral debate, with a keffiyeh draped over her shoulder, she stated “it is time to make a political commitment to end genocide, to ensure peace, and to change a world that is profoundly cruel, unjust and broken”. Montero reminded us that the rights we enjoy today are fruit of the struggles of preceding generations. The Podemos candidate thus centered her speech on her main campaign message: political non-conformism and the transformative power of the left, in the face of things being “difficult to change”.

Podemos’ campaign put a particular focus on its presence in Catalonia, juggling to fit its discourse into what is an ostensibly alien context for this party, but which led to a result not seen before, with its wins surpassing that of the dels Comuns, headed by Jaume Asens for Sumar.

Sumar ran on the concepts of unity and of serving as a counterweight to the PSOE

Perceiving this as a time of political disaffection, Sumar chose an outsider to lead a candidacy that they hold has “the strength and plurality of different parties.” Estrella Galan, the head of their list,  is the director general of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), and was relatively unknown before the election campaign.

Keffiyehs and slogans in support of the Palestinian people were also present at all of Estrella Galán and Yolanda Díaz’s campaign events. Manu Pineda, member of Izquierda Unida (IU) was number 4 in the candidate list. In addition to being a former MEP, he is a well-known pro-Palestinian activist. However, the worst predictions for Sumar came true and Pineda lost his seat in the European Parliament. It is the first time that IU has not been represented in Brussels since Spain joined the EU. There was a very tough negotiation about the electoral lists. IU even considered running separately in this election. In the end, the party decided it was more responsible to maintain a united candidacy, but these results are not likely to be without consequence.

With the campaign slogan ‘Marca el Rumbo’ (Set the Course), Sumar claimed for itself to be the force needed to ensure that the European Union defends human rights and peace, and moves away from austerity policies. On the national level, though, Sumar emphasized two recurring themes: the idea of unity — Juntas sumamos más (we add up to more together) was one of the campaign’s strongest messages — and the idea of being a counterweight to the PSOE. Both are all too reminiscent of the speeches of the now defunct coalition Unidas Podemos and, in highlighting the absence of the most combative party in this coalition with a PSOE that tends to be more progressive in what it says than in what it does, they may have been counterproductive.

PSOE positions itself as a barrier to the far right

In the final phase of the campaign, the Spanish government made two important announcements. The first was official recognition of the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. The second was the announcement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, that Spain would join South Africa’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) case against Israel for genocide. This is what was announced, although in reality they are joining the Hague Court proceedings, not the genocide case against Israel. Neither has it halted the arms trade.

The PSOE presented itself as the real opposition to the extreme right and did well, slicing eight points off the Conservative’s lead in the first polls. The choice of Teresa Ribera, the government’s third vice-president and minister of Ecological Transition, as head of the list sits nicely with Pedro Sánchez’s defence of a green Europe and against the ultras’ climate denialism. However, in contrast to the approach of the Popular Party of using the election as a kind of plebiscite, the PSOE opted for a campaign to appeal to the spirit of the left. They have reclaimed for them the term ‘zurdos’ (‘lefties, left-handed’), which ultra-right-wingers such as Argentine president Javier Milei repeatedly use as an insult; they remained adamant about being victims of fake news and lawfare — the president’s wife was summoned to testify a few days before the elections, in what has been seen as procedural irregularity aimed at interfering in the campaign — and they have played to their base with a good comeback story.

How will the Spanish MEPs be distributed in the European Parliament?

Of the 720 MEPs elected by the citizens of the European Union, 61 are from the Spanish State, two more than in 2019, more seats having been allocated after the growth of the European Parliament. This term will see 15 more MEPs than the last one. Of the 61, four will join the European Parliamentary Group The Left: Sumar’s Estrella Galán, Irene Montero and Isa Serra from Podemos and Pernando Barrena from Euskal Herria Bildu.

For now, assuming no last-minute surprises, it seems that The Left has managed to obtain the 23 MEPs needed to form a parliamentary group in Brussels.

The Greens will be joined by numbers 2 and 3 from Sumar’s list, members of Compromis and Catalunya en Común, respectively; and numbers 1 and 3 of Ahora Repúblicas, from Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and the Bloque Nacionalista Galego.

Spain’s voter turnout on 9 June was 49.22%. This is very low compared with the 2019 European elections, in which 60.70% of the electorate took part. However, it seems more logical to compare the 9 June numbers with that of the 2014 elections, given that in 2019 the European elections coincided with municipal elections and also with regional elections in 12 out of the 17 regions in the Spanish State. In the previous round in 2014, in which the ballot only decided European representation, the turnout was 43.81%. The turnout, therefore, can be said to have increased by more than 5 points.


María del Vigo works as a freelance journalist and is communications consultant at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation’s Madrid Office.