MADRID—Spain’s Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, emerged from inconclusive elections on April 28 with a strong chance to regain power, though he faces weeks or even months of negotiations to assemble a government from a deeply divided new parliament.
In one of the country’s most hotly contested elections in decades, the rise of nationalist party Vox split the right-wing vote, echoing fragmented parliaments across Europe where traditional groups have ceded to anti-establishment upstarts.
This is the third national election in four years, after the first two eroded the decades-long dominance of the two biggest parties, the Socialists and the conservative Popular Party.
Neither the rightist or the leftist political bloc held a clear majority, according to a tally of results from the Interior Ministry with 80 percent of votes counted.
By party, Sanchez’s Socialists led with 123 seats in the 350-seat parliament. The mainstream conservative People’s Party (PP) stood at 65 seats, centre-right Ciudadanos (‘Citizens’) at 57 seats, far-left Unidas Podemos at 42 and far-right Vox at 24.
There was speculation before the election about a possible coalition between the Socialists and Ciudadanos despite both parties’ leaders ruling out any tie-up.
If they were to forge an alliance, their parliamentary majority would mean that Sanchez would not have to seek the support of regional parties favoring Catalan independence.
However, he would face a large bloc of right-wing lawmakers.
“Vox is without a doubt one of the big winners of the night,” Narciso Michavila, the head of GAD3 pollsters, said on national television.
In an election dominated by cultural values and national identity rather than the economy, Vox’s campaign was marked by passionate reference to Spain’s history, customs, and survival as a nation.
“They said it was impossible for us to get here, and we’ve done it,” said top Vox official Rocio Monasterio speaking on television from the party’s headquarters.
The difficulty of assembling a governing coalition in such a fractured political landscape means that it is possible that Spain could head into yet another repeat election.
By Elena Rodriguez & Sabela Ojea