‘Spain weighs effect of Brexit as voters head to the polls’

Spain's acting prime minister and People's Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy waves after casting his vote in Spain's general election in Madrid, Spain, June 26, 2016. © Juan Medina
Most people in Spain are not very familiar with European institutions, oftentimes confusing the Council with the Commission or parliament. Now, some may be influenced in their voting by the Brexit result, former external relations officer for the European Commission, Carlos Puente Martin, told RT.

With the shock of the British referendum still in the air, Brexit has cast a shadow over this Sunday's general election in Spain. 

Several analysts believe that voters could sway towards the leftist Podemos party, which has called for structural reforms of the EU.

However, Podemos's main rival, the conservative 'Partido Popular' party, which currently heads the country's government, could use the Brexit result to their own benefit. They're hoping to profit from the gamble taken by Britons in the UK referendum to convince voters to remain loyal to tradition and stay with the status quo.

The current Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, wrote on Twitter that populism could have serious consequences.

RT: How could Brexit influence the Spanish election? Has Britain's decision to leave been viewed as a positive for the Podemos party?

Carlos Puente Martin: My opinion has nothing to do with my former responsibilities in the European Commission, but I can say that the results of the referendum of Brexit in my opinion will have very important effects on elections in Spain. There are some specific political parties like Podemos, which is encouraged to introduce huge changes and huge reforms in the structures of the European Union institutions. So, it is true that there are a lot of mistakes committed on both sides in Britain and also in European institutions. But it is not a tragedy. In my opinion, the EU must introduce specific reforms and mainly focus on the citizens instead of other kinds of interest.

RT: Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has said that Europe's in need of reform. How can he play a role in that process if he becomes prime minister?

CPM: I don’t think that Podemos as a potential winner of the elections can do something very important. Anyone who knows how the institutions work should know that it is a matter of consensus. No one can only go to Brussels and give instructions in a certain sense. We know that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows any member state to leave the EU. But it is not as easy as everyone believe.

RT: At the same time, acting Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has linked Brexit to populism. But Pablo Iglesias declared he was disappointed by Britain's departure from the EU. Will their views, coupled with the result in the UK, change many minds before the polls close over the weekend?

CPM: It is possible that this situation will change the mind of some voters, people who will go to the polls. But I don’t think it is a matter of being sensitive to the Brexit. But it is because most people in Spain - and also in other member states - are not very familiar with the European institution. Sometimes they confuse the Council or the Commission or the parliament. It is a matter that these institutions are very far away from the citizens. And this is what we have to learn from the result of the Brexit… Brexit will not have an extreme influence, but of course some influence will be taken into consideration.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.