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Inconclusive Spanish Elections Underscore Nation’s Polarized Politics

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The Spanish election on Sunday resulted in another inconclusive ballot with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) coming out on top but still shy of an absolute majority.

The results differed only marginally from the December 20th general election, with an improved performance on behalf of the PP (winning 137 out of 350 congressional seats as of late Sunday with 99.9% of the vote counted) being one notable difference. The Socialist Party (PSOE) again followed second with newcomers Unidos Podemos (“Together We Can”) and Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) slotting into third and fourth place.

The biggest surprise however came in the resilience of the Socialist Party, which was able to hold on to second place and avoid what had been widely predicted by surveys and Spanish media as the “sorpasso” — being overtaken by Unidos Podemos. The leftist coalition made up of the Podemos (“We Can”) party and the small communist-led United Left (IU) party, performed disappointingly pulling less than the sum of each group’s individual votes when they ran separately back in December.

This is the second general election for Spaniards in six months and is marked by a polarized political stage. On the left, Unidos Podemos and the Socialists total 156 seats, while on the right, the PP and Ciudadanos total 169 seats both short of the 176 required seats for a parliamentary majority. The pressure is on the Socialists now to drop their opposition to the PP and make way for a minority government.

Spain’s leading newspaper El País urged politicians to put aside their differences on Sunday and organize a government as soon as possible. “Now is not the time for messing about or egotism,” it wrote in an editorial as translated by Reuters. “The only priority should be the urgent need to form a government with the ability to govern.”

Spain stands as the EU’s fifth largest economy with an electorate beyond frustrated by its high unemployment rate, slashed public spending and political scandals.

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