Spain headed to the polls on Sunday (23 July) in a potentially close-run general election marked by ideological differences, the spectre of the far-right and irritation at being forced to vote during the summer holidays.
Voting opened at 9 am (0700 GMT) and closed at 8pm (1800 GMT), when exit polls were released. The final result is expected to be decided by fewer than a million votes and less than 10 seats in the 350-seat parliament, experts say.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the election early after the left took a drubbing in local elections in May, but many are furious at being called out to vote at the height of the sweltering summer.
Spain’s postal service on Friday (21 July) reported postal votes had already surpassed a record 2.4 million, as many people choose to cast their ballot from the beach or mountains, rather than their hotter home towns.Advertisement
Opinion polls show the election, which many candidates have painted as a ballot on the future of Spain, will likely produce a win for the centre-right People’s Party, but to form a government it will need to partner with the far-right Vox – which would be the first time a far-right party had entered government since Francisco Franco’s dictatorship ended in the 1970s.
“The status quo scenario and a hung parliament are still a real possibility, likely with 50% combined odds in our view,” Barclays wrote in a recent note to clients, citing the thin margin in PP’s favour and overall uncertainty regarding polling and voter turnout.
Sanchez’s minority Socialist (PSOE) government, currently in coalition with far-left Unidas Podemos, which is running in Sunday’s election under the Sumar platform, has passed progressive laws on euthanasia, transgender rights, abortion and animal rights.
It has warned such rights could be stripped back if the anti-feminist, family values-focused Vox is part of the next government.
The charismatic Pedro Sanchez, nicknamed “El Guapo” (Mr Handsome), has seen his term as prime minister marked by crisis management – from the COVID pandemic and its economic effects to the politically disruptive consequences of the failed 2017 independence bid in Catalonia.
PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who has never lost an election in his native Galicia, has played on his reputation for dullness, selling himself as a stable and safe pair of hands, which could appeal to some voters, experts say.
The formation of a new government depends on complex negotiations that could take weeks or months and may even end in fresh elections. Such uncertainty could dent Madrid’s effectiveness as the current host of the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union as well as its spending of EU COVID recovery funds.
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