All Change!

The Canaries and Lanzarote will have new Socialist Presidents following the regional and local elections on May 26th, while Lanzarote will also see at least three new Mayors.

Overall, the Socialist surge that brought Pedro Sánchez victory in the Spanish general election in April was maintained throughout the Canaries, with the party finally winning not only the most votes, but also the largest amount of seats in the Canarian parliament. However, once the results have been counted a lot of work has been required to create majorities in several institutions.

Central to these pacts has been a firm determination on the side of both the Socialists and the People’s Party (PP) to dislodge the Coalición Canaria (CC) from power. The CC has ruled the islands for over 20 years, but finally saw it’s power broken in May’s elections.

The key to control is the Canarian government, where the Socialists won, giving their leader Ángel Víctor Torres the option to form a government. However, they came 9 seats short of winning a majority and, at the time of writing, are still attempting to form a pact in which a tiny party from La Gomera who won just 6,000 votes may act as kingmakers. Should the Socialists arrange a pact, Torres will take over as Canarian President from Fernando Clavijo. Read more...


The Cabildo
The alliances made in the Canarian Government, and the apparent determination to remove the CC from power wherever possible, are likely to affect Lanzarote’s island government, the Cabildo, where Pedro San Ginés (CC) was defeated by the Socialist Loli Corujo, ending almost ten years of his presidency. Corujo became one of two women leaders in Lanzarote’s eight institutions, but she has also faced a delicate balancing act in constructing a majority.

Eventually, an agreement was reached in which the PP’s leader, Astrid Pérez, would become Mayor of Lanzarote’s most densely populated municipality, Arrecife – despite the fact that the CC won the most seats and their candidate Echedey Eugenio fully expected to be clutching the Mayor’s sceptre by June.

The unlikely prospect of eternal rivals from the PP and the PSOE pacting in order to freeze out the CC could mean real change in Lanzarote, although there is also the very real possibility of pacts breaking up.

No such pact took place in Tías, however, where Pancho Hernández lost his job as Mayor despite winning the most votes. Hernández’s PP tied with José Juan Cruz of the Socialists on nine seats each, and the role of kingmaker fell to Lanzarote Avanza councillor Mame Fernández who backed Cruz in return for some juicy positions in the new council, including that of Tourism councillor. Mayor “Pepe Juan” will be well known to older Tías residents, and served as Mayor for the municipality for several years in the 90s and 2000s

Three majorities
In Teguise, Oswaldo Betancort (CC) won an outright majority and will continue as Mayor of the island’s largest municipality, while Jesús Machín (CC) will also rule Tinajo without having to seek support. These are the only two remaining CC strongholds on Lanzarote, although Haría also remains under the precarious rule of Marcial Acuña, who was appointed Mayor of the northern región without gaining a majority or forming a pact. Acuña could be toppled at any time.

In San Bartolomé, Alexis Tejera (Socialist) won a majority and Óscar Noda of Lanzarote Avanza will continue as Mayor of Yaiza after agreeing to a governing pact with the CC.

Reform likely?
The issue of seat allocation in the Canaries is likely to return now that the Socialists hold more power. In the last elections in 2014, both the Socialists and the PP won considerably more votes than the CC, but received fewer seats due to the way smaller islands receive more seats per vote.
In these elections, for example, the tiny Socialist Grouping of La Gomera (ASG) won three seats with just 6,215 votes, while the centre-right Ciudadanos party won only two seats, despite receiving over 65,000 votes, over ten times more than the ASG.

The Europe Dimension

Spain and the Canaries aren’t the only places under new management following recent elections. The European Union has also seen important changes, while a new British Prime Minister plans to take the UK out of the EU by October 31st.

The EU elections, which took place at the end of March, saw increased representation for Green parties and right-wing populists. However, centrist parties are still likely to make the important decisions.

In the UK, the big news was Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party winning 29 seats, while both the Conservatives and Labour lost heavily due to dissatisfaction on their Brexit policies. Farage’s party is the largest in the EU parliament, but is likely to be rapidly sidelined by larger groupings and alliances for as long as the UK remains within the union.

Among those larger groupings, the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D groups remained the largest in the parliament, despite both losing several seats compared to the 2014 elections. The Liberal ALDE group was bolstered by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party in France, while the Green and Nationalist groupings also increased their representation.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Theresa May’s resignation triggered a seemingly endless leadership contest in the UK, with more than 10 candidates originally hoping to step into her leopard-print shoes.

Boris Johnson remains the strong favourite at the time of writing, while the revelation of the campaign has been Rory Stewart, the opium-smoking alleged ex-spy whose honesty about Brexit has been in marked contrast to the bluff and bluster of other candidates.

The winner will find themselves in precisely the same situation May was left in in March this year, facing a European Union that is unwilling to change the deal it already approved in November last year and a hung parliament where absolutely nothing can be guaranteed.

Under pressure from Nigel Farage, most Conservative candidates have stated that they are willing to take the UK into a no deal Brexit scenario by the end of October, but this could easily be opposed by parliament.

Once again, the only thing we can say with any confidence is that anything could happen in the next few months.