Spain held its second parliamentary election of the year after being stuck in a political deadlock with no clear majority to govern the country. Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the Socialist party leader, called a snap election after he failed to win a majority in the April election. As he cast his vote this morning, he said: “Let us strengthen democracy through our votes.”
But, the Socialists gained 120 seats and now look set to struggle to put together a ruling coalition in parliament.
Meanwhile, Vox saw a leap from 24 parliamentary seats to 52, making it the country’s third largest party.
The party’s leader, Santiago Abascal, puts its performance down to the fact it had “led a cultural and political change by opening up all the forbidden debates and told the left that the story isn’t over yet.”
He added: “They don’t have any moral superiority, and we have the same right to defend our ideas without being stigmatised and insulted as we still are by the media.”
Spain is holding its second general election of the year
The conservative Popular Party stayed in second place by winning 88 seats, up from 66 in April.
The far-left Unidas Podemos held on to fourth place, but fell from 42 seats to 35.
Ciudadanos won just 10 seats, down from 57 in April.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said the party will hold a congress to decide the next steps after admitting this was a “bad result, no excuses”.
Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez called a snap election
The Socialists and PP could have enough seats to have a majority.
But, both parties have publicly ruled out a “grand coalition” pact.
Pablo Iglesias, head of the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos, was unsuccessful in his attempt to form a governing coalition with Mr Sánchez after the previous general election.
But he announced today he will offer assistance to the socialists once again.
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Vox is expected to see a surge in popularity
He said: “We will reach out to the Socialist Party [PSOE].
“Any reproaches are a thing of the past.”
Meanwhile, Vox, which secured its first parliamentary seats in the previous election, could see its seats nearly double from 24 to 46.
This would mean the party would overtake left-wing Podemos and centre-right Ciudadanos to become the third-largest parliamentary group, the poll showed.
Polls closed this evening and results are expected shortly
Before voting began, Santiago Abascal, Vox’s leader, asked for the support of traditional leftwing voters who felt “abandoned” by the Socialists.
He also said other parties were “in a panic” about the rise of his far-right party.
Spain’s main parties focused their campaigns the independence crisis in Catalonia, as well as the threat of Vox’s grown popularity.
Vox has already joined forces with Spain’s two right-of-centre parties to take over many city and regional governments.
There is unlikely to be a majority in the election results
Those three groups would quickly join forces to oust Mr Sanchez, who is seen by the right-wing opposition as “too soft” on the Catalan secessionist movement.
Other recent polls have suggested increased support for Vox since violent protests broke out in Catalonia following the sentencing of nine independence leaders to prison terms of
up to 13-years last month.
Right-wing parties have called for the central government to take a tougher line on separatists in the northeastern region.
Over the past four years, elections in Spain have produced minority or short-lived governments as political leaders struggled to adapt to the emergence of new parties that ended years of dominance by PP and Socialists.
Santiago Abascal, leader and presidential candidate of Spain’s far-right party VOX, speaks at rally
Turnout was down by about 1.5m on the last elections, when more than 26 million people voted.
The composition of the chamber of deputies and the 208-member Senate is also at stake in this election.
Ignacio Torreblanca of the European Council on Foreign Relations told the FT: “There are 100 seats [in the chamber of deputies] that depend on very narrow margins of votes.
“Whether parties have a few percentage points more or less — particularly around the 12 percent level or, for the party that comes first, around 30 per cent — can have a brutal impact in the distribution of seats.”