Spain's Socialists seen ahead but short of majority in election

Spaniards head to polls for third time in four years amid far-right concerns

Supporters of the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) wait for the announcement of the results in Spain's general election in Madrid, Spain, April 28, 2019.

The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Sanchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia's failed secession bid in 2017. Vox, which formed five years ago, will be the first far-right party with a significant presence in Parliament since Spain transitioned to democracy after the 1976 death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

Sánchez' minority government, supported by other parties, came into power in June 2018 after a vote of no confidence in Mariano Rajoy's centre-right People's Party (PP).

Arguably, the big loser of the night was new Popular Party leader Pablo Casado whose conservative party lost half its vote share and half of its seats.

Mr Sanchez ousted former prime minister Mariano Rajoy after a no-confidence motion in June previous year, and called a snap election after a budget stalemate.

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

The right-wing bloc would be short of a majority, according to the partial results.

The alternative is to form a coalition with Ciudadanos, although that appears complicated as Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera ruled out sharing a government with Sanchez on numerous occasions during the election campaign.

"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".

A woman picks a ballot paper during general elections at a polling station in Barcelona.

A few things are clear, however, based on opinion polls and conversations with party insiders. But should parliament fail to do so, only a simple majority (more votes in favor than against the new government) will be needed in the proceeding rounds.

The region's independence drive was the most divisive issue in an election dominated by a sometimes fraught debate over national identity.

Founded by Santiago Abascal, a former member of the PP, with a strong stance against feminism and illegal immigration, Vox has stood out with ultra-nationalist rhetoric that advocates the "defence of the Spanish nation to the end" and a hard line against separatists in Catalonia. But it will be much more tricky when it comes to the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), who won the most seats in Catalonia (15).

Many on the left will be hoping that PSOE aligns with Spain's progressive parties, rather than make concessions to Spain's largely deflated centre-right.

He could get that if some of the Catalan separatists who won parliamentary representation on Sunday abstained.

The five separatists elected are in jail and now being tried at Spain's Supreme Court.

"All I want is for whoever wins to take care of the old people", Gomez said, complaining that the two of them together receive less than 1,000 euros ($1,500 Cdn) a month in state pensions.

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