Spaniards may lose socialist power in elections

MADRID (Reuters) – Spaniards began voting on Sunday in a potentially close general election that could see the ruling leftist defeated, while the far-right Conservative-allied party could become part of a coalition government for the first time in 50 years.

Polling stations opened at 9am (0700 GMT) and will close at 8pm with the first exit polls. According to experts, the final result should be less than a million votes and less than 10 seats out of 350 in parliament.

The outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, from the Socialist Party (PSOE), called for snap elections following the defeat of the leftists in local elections in May. However, his gambit of misguiding his opponents may go against him.

According to the polls, the conservative People’s Party (PP) of Alberto Núñez Feijoa should win, but will have to form a government with Santiago Abascal’s far-right Vox party. Such an alliance would be the first for a Spanish government since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the 1970s.

The announcement of the election in the middle of summer has sparked the anger of many Spaniards: postal services announced on Saturday that the number of postal votes had reached a record figure of 2.47 million, with holidaymakers opting to vote by beach or mountain.

“The status quo and the scenario of a hung parliament remain a real possibility, with a combined probability of 50% in our view,” Barclays wrote in a recent note, citing the low margin of votes in favor of the PP and the general uncertainty regarding elections and voter turnout.

The support of smaller parties for Alberto Núñez Fizu or Pedro Sánchez could also influence the outcome of the election.

The Socialists are currently governing with the far-left party, Unidas Podemos, which is standing in the election united within the Sumar coalition.

The left-wing coalition has passed progressive legislation on euthanasia, transgender rights, abortion and animal rights and warned voters that those rights could be taken away if the anti-feminist Vox party, which is keen to preserve so-called family values, becomes part of the next government.

Pedro Sánchez, in power since 2018, has faced a number of crises during his tenure, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy to the political fallout from Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence attempt.

Experts say PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijoa, who has never lost an election in his native Galicia, has bet on his reputation by portraying himself as a stable and safe figure, which may appeal to some voters.

The formation of a new government depends on complex negotiations that may take weeks or months, or even on new elections.

Such uncertainty could impact the EU’s rotating presidency of the Council, held by Madrid from July 1, as well as the use of the EU’s post-Covid recovery fund.

(Reporting by Jessica Jones, French edition Claude Chandjou)

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