Spanish Socialists (PSOE) experiment with primaries

Last month, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) became the latest social democratic party to adopt open primaries. The primaries will be for their Prime Ministerial candidate at the next Spanish election in 2015.

Under the PSOE primary rules, the primary would be open to all Spanish citizens aged over 16. There would be a month to register to take part with the register closing six days before the vote. Those who register required to pay 2 Euros to vote. Candidates for Prime Minister will require nominations from 5% of members (but no more than 10%). A period of two to three weeks will be given to collect nominations and there will be no run-off round. Primaries may also be held for Presidencies of autonomous regions with the support of regional Executives. Valencia will be the first region to conduct an open PSOE primary for the Presidential candidate. A copy of the primary rules is available here (Spanish).

The PSOE’s Catalonian sister party, the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) have also embraced primaries. It will also use an open primary for its Barcelona mayoral candidate at the end of March. The primary will run for six weeks and candidates will need to get a minimum of 1000 nominations from people on the primary electoral roll. A candidate will need to obtain 40% and win by more than 10% to avoid a run-off. More details are available here.

It will be interesting to see what effect an open primary will have. While the polls are close between the PSOE and its conservative rival, the People’s Party (PP), they are both polling well-below their voting share at the last Spanish election. Other groupings such as the left-wing United Left (IU) and social liberal Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) have grown their vote and combined are polling over 20% in the opinion polls. While the electoral system disadvantages these smaller parties, it is likely there will be a hung parliament. Other parties like the UPyD have also adopted the use of open primaries and the threat of abstentions is high.

Whether the primaries will have an impact on the level of support for the PSOE or throw up a surprise candidate is unclear but one thing is for sure, the momentum towards adopting primaries in social democratic parties shows little sign of abatement.

UPDATE 15/06/14: Jaume Collboni won the PSC primary to become their Barcelona mayoral candidate. There were over 5,000 participants (only a fifth were party members) in the second round of voting, down from over 7,000 in the first round.

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