Location Spain Spain

Spanish election: national newcomers end era of two-party dominance

Spanish politicians are gearing up for what could be weeks of complicated negotiations after the general election resulted in a deeply fragmented parliament, with the conservative People’s party losing ground to national newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos.

The PP won 123 seats in Sunday’s election, with 29% of the vote, leaving it far from a majority in the 350-seat legislature. Led by Mariano Rajoy, the current prime minister, the party has limited possibilities when it comes to the alliances it now needs to form a stable government majority.

The Socialists, who asserted their place as the traditional rival of the conservatives throughout the campaign, came second, with 90 seats and 22% of the vote. With many in Spain still suffering the lingering effects of an economic crisis that sent unemployment rates soaring and triggered painful austerity measures, millions of voters turned away from the PP and Socialists, who have alternated in power for decades, and instead looked to emerging parties.

Anti-austerity Podemos, barely two years old and born from the Indignado protests that saw thousands rally against a political establishment felt to be out of sync with the people, finished in third place with 69 seats and 21% of the vote, while the centre-right Ciudadanos won 40 seats and 14% of the vote. “Spain is not going to be the same anymore and we are very happy,” the Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, said on Sunday. “The bipartisan political system is over.” The PP and Socialists won a combined vote share of about 50%, compared with the 70-80% of past general elections.

Podemos did remarkably well across the country, coming first in Catalonia – where it ran in a coalition with Barcelona en Comú – and the Basque country, a result that suggested widespread support for its campaign promise to hold a referendum on Catalan independence. “Today is a historic day for Spain,” Iglesias told supporters on Sunday night. “Every time there is an election, the forces of change advance.”

Ciudadanos, launched in 2006 as a regional party to counter Catalan separatism and which expanded nationally last year, also celebrated its result on Sunday. “Today begins a new phase of hope and excitement,” said its leader, Albert Rivera. “Millions in Spain have decided that things are going to change.”

The results leave open the possibility for Rajoy to become one of the first leaders in Europe to be re-elected after imposing harsh austerity measures, but he faces a tremendous uphill battle to take power. “I’m going to try and form a government,” Rajoy told cheering supporters on Sunday as the results came in. “But it won’t be easy.”


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