The right-wing Popular Party (PP) is projected to be ahead after a general election in Spain – but it is likely to need the support of the far-right to govern.
PP is likely to fall short of an outright parliamentary majority, according to two exit polls.
However, the voter surveys suggest the party could govern if it links up with the far-right Vox, led by Santiago Abascal.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the early election after his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and its far-left partner, Unidas Podemos, took a hammering in local and regional elections in May.
But it appears the prime minister’s gamble may have backfired.
Election could continue switch to right in Europe
To take power, a party needs to secure an absolute majority of 176 seats in Spain’s 350-seat congress – or assemble a coalition.
The Popular Party (PP), led by Alberto Nunez Feijoo, appears set to emerge as the largest party. But it is not predicted to reach a majority on its own.
If Vox does join a new government, it would be the first time a far-right nationalist party has been in power since the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.
And a PP-Vox government would also mean another EU member has moved to the right – a trend also seen recently in Sweden, Finland and Italy.
As well as asking the Spanish public to choose 350 members of the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, this election also gave people a say on 208 members of the country’s senate.
What the exit polls said
A survey by GAD3 for media group Mediaset, published shortly after mainland voting ended at 8pm local time (7pm in the UK), looked at 10,000 voter intentions collated over the course of the election.
It suggested the PP would win 150 seats, and Vox 31.
The leftist coalition, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists, would get a combined 149 seats in the 350-seat lower chamber, GAD3 projected.
Another survey, of 17,000 people by the Sigma Dos pollster for the state broadcaster RTVE, also showed no single party close to winning a parliamentary majority, and the combined right achieving it only at the top of the ranges provided.
Heat affects voting
Polling stations opened at 9am (8am UK time) on Sunday and closed at 8pm (7pm in the UK).
In what was forecast to be an extremely tight race, 36 million people were eligible to cast their votes.
However, many Spaniards may have been put off from casting their ballots in person by the sweltering heatwave across Europe. Postal voting reached record levels in the country, with 2.5 million signing up.
Portable floor fans, hand fans, and water bottles were widely used in most polling stations, which are often public schools.
Spanish state broadcaster RTVE set up some large screens near popular beaches so people trying to cool off could follow the results.
Turnout is trending down compared to the same point during the last general election in 2019.