On the hunt for local elections the Galician PSOE is

On the hunt for local elections: the Galician PSOE is looking for a formula to strengthen the support of its mayor Besteiro

The PSOE demonstrates important municipal strength in Galicia, with Vigo being a prime example, but these results in local elections are not repeated in regional elections. In 2023, the Galician Socialists received 30% of the vote in both the parliamentary and local elections, a percentage that remained at 20% in the 2020 regional elections and 18% in the 2016 elections. José Ramón Gómez Besteiro's team is now fighting to keep this voter so that he does not change his ballot. “If we manage to mobilize these citizens so that half of the votes are accepted in the regional elections, there will obviously be a progressive government in Galicia,” says Alberto Varela, mayor of Vilagarcía de Arousa (Pontevedra), local politics secretary of the Galician PSOE and President of the Galician Municipal and Provincial Association (Fegamp).

Galicia has only had two socialist presidents. In 2005, the PSdeG-PSOE managed to form a left-wing government with the BNG – a situation that had previously only occurred between 1987 and 1990 under the socialist Fernando González Laxe at the head of a three-party party and after a motion of no confidence. Manuel Fraga was one seat short of an absolute majority and replaced Emilio Pérez Touriño. But since Alberto Núñez Feijóo's PP returned to the Xunta in 2009, the Galician socialists have not raised their heads in the regional elections. Now they are convinced that they will rule the community again. “We believe that this is the moment and the greatest opportunity to change the political cycle, in the face of a PP that is no longer saying anything and under the leadership of Besteiro, who has found the greatest recognition and consensus in the party has. “, announces Varela.

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The PSOE holds a hundred mayoral positions in the 313 Galician city councils, including in three of the seven largest cities (Vigo, A Coruña and Lugo). In the May 2023 local elections, 167,000 more citizens voted for the party in Galicia than in the 2020 regional elections. In the 23-J parliamentary elections, the difference increased: 226,000 more ballots. “We must open the election campaign to achieve this double vote in large and medium-sized cities. “We see that the scenario is favorable and we are ready to advance this mobilization,” says Varela, who has never perceived such fatigue among Galician citizens as he does now, because they are aware that they are no longer interested “It puts the focus on whether Spain is falling apart or not.” And he insists: “There will be an electoral turnaround if we convince our local voters not to switch parties in the regional elections .”

José Rúas is a professor of political communication at the University of Vigo and a former PSOE city councilor in Ourense. According to him, the outcome of 18-F will depend on the context, leadership and time available to strengthen a candidate. He believes that the PP tried to reverse Feijóo's departure and the “explicit appointment of Rueda” by announcing an electoral push “a few days after Besteiro's presentation as a candidate”. “Besteiro shows very good leadership qualities, but has hardly had any time since his return to public life,” he emphasizes.

The professor and former socialist city councilor explains that part of the electorate not only “votes differently in each election process,” but even “supports the same candidate in different ways depending on the moment.” It highlights “the traditional Galician duality of voting between rural areas and the city”, with a more progressive weight in urban environments, and the fact that the difference in outcome in local and regional elections is “very pronounced and variable on the left”, whose electorate is less loyal, more critical and more punitive.”

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The Vigo case

Vigo, the most populous city, is a prime example of the problem the Socialists have in attracting their local voters for regional elections. In the local elections last May, 82,000 people from Vigo – 60% of the citizens who went to vote – voted with the fist and the rose. In the June parliamentary elections, the Socialists remained the leading force, although they fell to 63,000 votes (37%). However, in the last regional elections it outperformed the PP and the vote remained at 43,000 votes, almost 30% of the total.

The National Deputy and Provincial Secretary of the Socialists in Pontevedra, David Regades Fernández, emphasizes that the PSOE's results in Pontevedra and Vigo are always above the Galician average. He admits that the vote in Galicia's largest city will be crucial, but adds that the expectations for Besteiro are “unbeatable.”

Regades is convinced that “the comeback is underway” and believes that Besteiro’s message of “cooperation with the central government” will help him: “Citizens reject constant fighting. They prefer harmony between governments, which attracts investment and opportunity.”

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