Spain Goes Back to the Polls, Seeking End to Political Stalemate

MADRID (Reuters) -
Ballots and envelopes are seen during general election in Madrid, Spain, Sunday. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

Spain held its second parliamentary election this year on Sunday, with voters seen as likely to deliver no clear winner, an even more fragmented parliament and a sizable boost to the far-right.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote showed no single party winning a majority. The Socialists were in the lead but likely to win slightly fewer seats than in April’s vote, while the conservative People’s Party (PP) could gain strength and the far-right Vox could become the third-largest party, just months after winning its first parliamentary seats.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the election – the fourth in four years – betting that a new vote would strengthen his hand after his Socialist Party won in April but then failed to forge the alliances needed to form a government.

Spain has struggled to put stable governments together since 2015, when new parties emerged from the financial crisis following decades during which power oscillated between the Socialists and the PP.

Voting will end at 8 p.m. (local time) in mainland Spain. Results should begin emerging in the early evening, with almost all votes counted by midnight.

One thing was certain on Sunday: voters are tired of being called to the polls – there were also regional and European Union elections this year. That alone increases the chances that parties will make more of an effort this time to reach a deal over governing and shy away from a repeat ballot.

A minority government led by the Socialists appears the most likely outcome, opinion polls showed, but an even bigger question is who the Socialists may ally with and how long any government can last with a very fragmented parliament.

First official turnout data at 2 p.m. (local time), showed a drop in voter numbers from the previous election – around 38% compared with 41.5% in April.

Violent protests by separatists in the northeastern region of Catalonia last month have overshadowed the campaign, delivering a boost to the right, and in particular to Vox and the PP, whose fiercely anti-separatist rhetoric has struck a chord with many voters.

Polls suggest that support for Vox could as much as double, even if pollsters have found it difficult to estimate the new party’s popularity.