Spain’s election ends with no clear majority, throwing the country into political limbo

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The leader and candidate of conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) Alberto Nunez Feijoo.

Oscar Del Pozo | Afp | Getty Images

Spain’s election Sunday ended with no clear majority for either of the two main parties, throwing Europe’s fourth-largest economy into political limbo.

With all votes counted, Spain’s conservative Partido Popular party secured 136 parliamentary seats, followed by the incumbent socialist party PSOE with 122 seats. Far-right party Vox came third with 33 seats, while the leftish Sumar party got 31.

All parties fell short of the required 176 seats needed for an absolute majority.

Ahead of the election, there was speculation that PP could join forces with Vox — potentially marking the first return to power of the far right since the 1975 dictatorship of Francisco Franco. PP and Vox have joined forces previously in some regions, but never at a national level.

However, their combined 169 seats aren’t enough for a coalition majority.

On the other side, incumbent leader Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE could potentially join forces with Sumar, but again, their combined 153 seats also fall short.

Alberto Feijóo, leader of the PP, claimed responsibility for forming a government, given that his party won the most seats.

“I am going to start a dialogue with the rest of the parties,” he said on Twitter. “I ask for responsibility so that Spain does not suffer blockades.” He added that he hoped other parties would not join forces themselves and prevent him from forming a government.

Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s prime minister and leader of Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol (PSOE).

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It’s not this straightforward, however.

Sanchez’s ruling party actually gained seats in Sunday’s election, and he has experience in negotiating accords with smaller parties to form a government.

“Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will have a shot at staying in power by negotiating a deal with far-left Sumar and smaller parties, although a repetition of elections is also a material possibility,” Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at Teneo, said in a note. He assigned a 45% chance to each scenario.

The background to the vote

Members of Feijóo’s conservative party had raised concerns regarding Vox’s anti-LGBT rights and anti-immigration policies. Vox had also been criticized by mainstream politicians for opposing abortion rights and denying climate change.

The snap election was brought about by socialist PSOE’s strong defeat in regional and municipal polls in May. General elections were originally due at the end of this year.

The Sunday vote was the first to ever take place during the summertime, and extreme heat felt in different parts of the country over recent weeks saw a renewed focus on climate policies ahead of the vote.

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Sanchez has served as Spain’s prime minister since 2018. He has been criticized for pardoning politicians supporting regional independence, and also faced a backlash after the “only yes means yes” sexual consent law reduced the jail time of many convicted rapists through a loophole.

However, Sanchez’s economic record has proved strong. Spain’s economy grew more than 5% in 2022 and is set to expand by about 1.5% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Inflation in the major European economy is also among the lowest in the region. In June, Spain became the first country in Europe to report an inflation rate under 2%, way below the historic highs recorded in 2022.

No clear majority in Spanish elections secured despite a narrow win for the People's Party

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