• 23-J Feijóo agrees to debate face to face with Sánchez and confirms that he will abolish the ministries of Equality and Consumption
  • Proposal Sánchez wants to reduce the 23-J to a face to face with Feijóo, proposes six debates and the PP rejects it: "It is one more eccentricity"

The debates, that added point of friction that enlivens all electoral campaigns, have had a changing history in Spanish democracy. A formula, that of the dialectical confrontation between political leaders before the television screens, which arrived late in Spain imported from the US. Experts in demoscopy and sociology say that these discussions in public do not change, except for major errors committed by some of the contenders, the general sense of the vote but they do influence when it comes to inclining the undecided towards any of the options that go to the polls. Now that the bag of doubters is large, the electoral debates are presented as a useful tool that transcends the power of the already very exhausted instrument of the rally, aimed almost exclusively at consolidating the vote of the hosts themselves.

Felipe González and José María Aznar pose with the moderator of the debate, Manuel Campo Vidal, in 1993.ATRESMEDIA

1993: The premiere

Felipe González, President of the Government, and José María Aznar, a rookie candidate for the PP, were the two protagonists of the premiere of the electoral debates in Spain. That was an event and the two that were held, one on Antena 3 and another on Telecinco, had great impact. The journalistic chronicles of the time speak of Aznar as the winner of the first clash and González as the winner of the second. The socialist defended his title of president since 1982 and the popular, newly arrived in the field of national politics, aspired to be the revulsive of a change of cycle that was already beginning to be felt in the country. There was, however, one last push. The elections were won again by the PSOE although it could not exhaust the legislature.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy, again with Manuel Campo Vidal in the 2008 debate.JAVI MARTÍNEZ

2008: New Faces

The debates were buried for a decade and a half and only recovered when the two major parties went to the polls with renewed faces. Two debates were again held with a view to the elections. This time with Zapatero trying to revalidate the title of president he held since 2004 and Rajoy who, after four years leading the opposition, finally intended to enter La Moncloa. The two fights before the cameras were held at the Television Academy, neutral territory agreed by the PSOE and PP campaign managers after arduous negotiations.

The first of the debates is remembered for being that of the famous "Rajoy's girl". The character to which the popular leader alluded as an example of the future of housing, work and security that he proposed for the new generations. For some it was a cursilada, for others a success.

The second, has passed to the imaginary by the farewell that Zapatero used to close his final golden minute: "Good night and good luck". The mythical phrase of the CBS journalist, Ed Murray, in his legendary debate in front of Senator McCarthy, architect of the so-called "witch hunt" in the US, and title of the film, with script by George Clooney, which narrates those episodes. Those elections were won again by the PSOE.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and Mariano Rajoy, at the beginning of the 2011 debate.ALBERTO DI LOLLI

2011: Two title contenders

In 2011 early elections were held called by a Zapatero overcome by the economic crisis who gave up running for re-election. In his place the candidate of the PSOE was the until then vice-president Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and for the PP, Mariano Rajoy, leader of the opposition since 2004.

There was only one debate between the two at the Television Academy. The star topic, as it could not be otherwise, was the financial crisis unleashed after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its very serious impact on the Spanish economy. Rubalcaba fought with little chance against this evidence. In those elections, the PP with Mariano Rajoy at the head achieved victory with an absolute majority.

Pedro Sánchez and Mariano Rajoy, together with the moderator, in the face to face of 2015.ANTONIO HEREDIA

2015: Multi-party system

Radical change in the history of debates brought about by the entry on the scene of new parties: Podemos and Ciudadanos. In 2015 the debates were lavished. There were two with less impact organized by the Carlos III University and by the newspaper El País. The first was a face-to-face between the two representatives of the new policy: Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera. And the second, the socialist candidate Pedro Sánchez joined.

Later there were two others organized by Atresmedia and the Television Academy. The first declined to go the president Mariano Rajoy who gave the post to his number two Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to face Sánchez, Rivera and Iglesias. The debate was attended live by several hundred citizens. In the second, only Mariano Rajoy and the socialist candidate, Pedro Sánchez, participated. The new leader of the PSOE accused the president of being an "indecent" and a "liar" and Rajoy, indignant, replied calling him "petty and mean". The elections were won by the PP.

Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sánchez, Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias, in the debate to four of 2016.MariscalEFE

2016: A country without a government

In June 2016, the general elections were repeated due to the impossibility of forming a government. The electoral debate, held once again at the Television Academy and moderated by three journalists, was attended by Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sánchez, Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias. The discussion had two axes: the first, typical of multiple debates, was the clash of all against who intends to revalidate himself in the presidency, in that case Rajoy. The second, that of the confrontation between aspirants of the same ideological bloc: on that occasion between Pedro Sánchez for the PSOE and Pablo Iglesias for Podemos, the new party that yearned for the hegemony of the left. The elections were won by the PP with a simple majority of 137 seats. In those elections Unidas Podemos reached its historic ceiling with 71 deputies.

Pablo Casado, Pedro Sánchez, Santiago Abascal, Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera, in the 2019 debate.David MudarraPP

2019: Two consecutive crashes

The last electoral debates that Spain has known while waiting for those corresponding to the 23-J election campaign to be agreed, were those held in 2019. Before these elections, two dialectical confrontations were held in which five contenders participated: President Pedro Sánchez, and the candidates of PP, Pablo Casado; Podemos, Pablo Iglesias; Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera and Vox, Santiago Abascal.

Pedro Sánchez refused to participate in a one-on-one debate with the popular Pablo Casado and demanded an open confrontation with all the representatives of the main political forces with special interest in including the leader of Vox.

The debates, after much tug-of-war, were held on consecutive days: 22 and 23 April. One of the key issues revolved around the independence challenge and Sánchez's intention to approach and make concessions to secessionism.

The elections were won by Sánchez but given the impossibility of forming a government, he called new elections for November 10, thus initiating a legislature with the first coalition government in the history of Spain, which now ends.

  • Mariano Rajoy
  • PSOE
  • PP
  • Pablo Iglesias
  • José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
  • Can
  • Albert Rivera
  • Pedro Sanchez
  • Citizenry
  • Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba
  • Pablo Casado
  • To:
  • United States
  • Soraya Saenz de Santamaria
  • United We Can
  • Santiago Abascal Conde
  • Add
  • Telecinco
  • Antenna 3
  • Jose Maria Aznar

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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