Socialists win Spain vote, far-right Vox surges to third place

Madrid, Nov 11 (AFP/APP): Spain’s Socialist premier Pedro Sanchez emerged as winner but weakened from Sunday’s repeat election that propelled the far-right Vox into third place in a result set to deepen years of political turmoil.

The ballot, the fourth in as many years, failed to draw a line under months of parliamentary deadlock following an inconclusive April poll which Sanchez won but left him unable to form a government.

The Socialist leader, who had called the vote to strengthen his hand, ended up losing three seats in a poll that weakened his potential allies and strengthened the right.

The campaign has been overshadowed by the Catalan separatist crisis that has played squarely into the hands of the far right which over the past year has made significant inroads into Spain’s political arena.

Announced some four hours after polling stations closed, the final results showed the Socialists taking 120 of the parliament’s 350 seats (28 percent of the votes) while Vox secured 52 (15 percent) — more than double its mandates in the outgoing assembly.

Five candidates contesting Spain’s election

Vox only made its parliamentary debut in April when it won 24 mandates in the biggest showing by the far-right since Spain returned to democracy after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

In second place was the rightwing Popular Party, which took 88 mandates (nearly 21 percent), up from 66 in the previous poll.

Sunday’s vote will only prolong the chronic political turmoil in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, Teneo analyst Antonio Barroso told AFP.

“The results will make forming a government more difficult due to the parliament’s deep fragmentation and the rise of Vox,” he said, warning that the divisions “were so problematic” that it was impossible to rule out yet another election.

Posters calling Catalan journalists ‘terrorists’ condemned

In recent days, Sanchez had repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.

But his warnings appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.

Turnout dropped two percent points compared with April’s figure, standing at 69.87 percent.

– Europe extremists hail Vox victory –

Vox’s surge drew praise from fellow extremist leaders in Europe, with Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini lauding its “great advance” while Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally described its electoral success as “spectacular”.

But in Spain, the reaction was one of shock, with the outcome swiftly denounced by Pablo Iglesias, leader of the radical leftwing Podemos who spent months locked in talks with Sanchez’s Socialists that failed to end the deadlock.

“These elections have allowed the right to grow stronger and now we have an extreme right which is among the most powerful and strong in Europe,” said Iglesias whose party also suffered a slide, dropping to 35 seats from 42 in April.

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