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Spain election: Socialists consider next move after elections

30 April 2019

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looks set to regain power after his Socialists overcame a historic challenge by right-wing nationalists in elections on Sunday (28 April), a result he portrayed as a morale booster for the European Union.

Mr Sanchez is expected to take his time to form a coalition government, with Spain not having a history of using cross-party coalitions to govern at a national level.

A decisive socialist win in Spain's election on Sunday may be seen in Europe as evidence of a gathering centre-left recovery - but it also underlines the dangers to moderate conservatives of courting the far right.

La Vanguardia reports Vox party leader Santiago Abascal as saying in response to the election results, "This is just the beginning... welcome to the resistance".

"The People's Party under Pablo Casado clearly lurched further to the right to fend off the rise of Vox".

With 65 seats, the once-dominant Popular Party has lost nearly half of its presence in the Congress of Deputies, losing votes to the centre-right Citizens party and far-right Vox party.

But in order to advance, the Socialists will have to work with smaller parties to reach the 176 seats required to form a coalition government.

With over 60 per cent of votes counted, Sanchez's Socialist Party had gained 124 lawmakers out of 350, or more than 29 per cent of votes, still far from an absolute majority.

But though Rivera seems to have shut all doors to an alliance with the left bloc a long time ago, Sanchez could give him another chance.

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Ciudadanos got 57 seats on Sunday, Podemos 42 and Vox 24.

Polls predict it could take more than 10 percent of the votes in a country that had no far-right party to speak of, since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, in what is likely to cause further concern in Europe.

"One must be honest: [Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro] Sanchez already has a government with [Pablo] Iglesias, [the leader of the Unidas Podemos alliance], and the support of nationalists".

Forging cross-party alliances has proved hard for political negotiators and has unsettled Spanish governments.

In a sign of the impact the crisis had on voters, Dolores Palomo, a 48-year-old domestic worker, said she had always voted for the socialists but cast her ballot for Ciudadanos this time at a polling station in Hospitalet de Llobregat, near Barcelona.

Despite it being the third election in four years turnout in Sunday's vote was at around 75%, up more than 8 points since the previous election in 2016, according to the Interior Ministry.

The numbers also show that Prime Minister Sanchez could continue with his current governing arrangement, counting on the parliamentary support of Podemos, Catalan secessionists and Basque nationalists, which also have increased their representation in the national parliament.

A possible alliance with Ciudadanos has not been ruled out, even if the party's leader, Albert Rivera, has made "chasing" the socialists from power a "national urgency".

To do that in combination with Podemos, the Socialists would require the support of at least one lawmaker from the Catalan separatist camp.

Spain election: Socialists consider next move after elections