Spain election: Conservatives win but fall short of majority
The center-right Popular Party has beaten Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez' Socialists but will need several junior parties to govern
Spain's opposition right-wing Popular Party (PP) won Sunday's snap general election, with over 99.8% of the votes counted, but was set to fall short of a parliamentary majority.
The PP and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez' Socialists (PSOE) had 33% and 31.7% shares of the vote respectively, the results showed.
This would give the PP, under leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, 136 seats in the 350-seat lower chamber, the Congress of Deputies, and the Socialists 122 seats.
Parties now look to form coalition government
The PP now requires support from several junior parties to achieve a governing majority of 176 seats, so the result is likely to produce weeks of political jockeying.
The far-right Vox, which offered to partner with the PP was projected to win 33 seats. But with 169 seats, the PP would still be seven seats short.
But if that partnership is later confirmed, along with a third party, it would be the first time a far-right party had entered government in Spain since Francisco Franco's dictatorship ended in the 1970s.
The radical left-wing Sumar, which brought together 15 small leftist parties and backed the Socialists, won 31 seats, giving their alliance just 153 seats.
The remaining parties are mostly region-specific. The two Catalan pro-independence parties, who voted to support a Sanchez-lead government before, saw their number of seats fall, but may still play the role of kingmaker if Sanchez tries to stay on as prime minister.
Sanchez and Feijoo both claim victory
The PP leader told supporters in Madrid on Sunday evening that his party would now try to form a government.
"As the candidate of the party that won the most seats, I believe it is my duty to try to form a government," Feijoo said.
He asked that "no one fall into the temptation of blocking the formation of a new government," adding that Spain did not need a period of uncertainty.
Sanchez was also celebrating the result from the balcony of his party headquarters late Sunday, as the Socialists had won more seats and a higher percentage of the votes than in the 2019 election.
He told supporters that the projected win of the conservative and far-right block had failed.
"The backward-looking bloc, which proposed a total repeal of all the progress we have made over the last four years, has failed," he told supporters.
"The regressive block made up of the Popular Party and Vox were beaten."
"There are many more who want Spain to keep advancing than those who want to step backward," Sanchez added.
Why did Spain hold a snap election?
Sanchez called the election early after the left took a drubbing in local elections in May
The vote has originally been scheduled for December. but his gamble to wrong-foot his opponents appears to have backfired.
The election took place just three weeks after Spain took over the rotating presidency of the European Union and the PP's win is a fresh blow to the European left after similar moves in other EU countries — Sweden, Finland and Italy.
The election also took place at the height of summer, when a significant number of voters may be away from their usual polling locations due to vacations and on the tail of a month of heat waves.
Officials, however, still expected a 70% turnout.
A record number, 2.47 million, of the 37.5 million registered voters cast an absentee ballot even before the polls opened
Minor party poised to play kingmaker
Pre-election polls had predicted a larger majority for the PP but that it would have to depend on Vox's support to form a government.
Nunez Feijoo now needs to negotiate with much smaller parties to try to reach the 176 target.
In an interview published on Friday by El Mundo, Feijoo stated that a candidate should not disclose their alliances just two days before an election. He added a government with Vox "is not ideal."
However, PP and Vox have already teamed up to govern in dozens of regions and cities since local elections in May.
Support for the anti-Islam, anti-feminist party is on the wane. In the last election in November 2019, Vox won 52 seats. If Sunday evening's voter surveys are correct, it could receive two-thirds of that number in this election.