Spanish elections: Socialists 'lead amid right-wing surge'

Far-right Vox supporters wave Spanish flags at a campaign rally in Santander last week. Suppport for Vox has been swelled by weeks of Catalan separatist protests

Spain goes to the polls with far right tipped to make gains

It suggested far-right Vox becoming a third-biggest party in the parliament.

As Spain voted Sunday in the country's fourth election in as many years, a leading leftist party pledged to help the incumbent Socialist party in the hope of staving off a possible right-wing coalition government that could include a far-right party.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who won the most votes in the last ballot in April but failed to whip up enough parliamentary support to form a government, voted in the morning.

The survey predicts the Socialists will lose up to nine seats.

Spanish politics has become increasingly fragmented in recent years with the emergence of new parties. Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour.

A far-right party is projected to score major gains with its call for a crackdown on independence movements in Catalonia.

REUTERS/Rafael Marchante Spain's acting Prime Minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) leader and candidate Pedro Sanchez talks to media as he attends voting during Spain's general election in Pozuelo de Alarcon, outside Madrid, Spain, November 10, 2019.

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The Socialists' victory in April was also seen by many as a respite for Europe, where right-wing parties had gained much ground.

"We think that combining the courage of United We Can and the experience of the Socialist party we can convert our country into a reference point for social policies", Iglesias said.

Spain's main parties focused their campaigns the independence crisis in Catalonia, as well as the threat of Vox's grown popularity.

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The Interior Ministry put voter turnout at 69.91%, - down from the record 71.76% during the general election in April.

The ruling prompted a clash between pro-independence protesters and the police, leaving many people injured.

During a recent TV election debate, PP leader Pablo Casado called for a "real government that will put order in Catalonia".

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Before voting began, Santiago Abascal, Vox's leader, asked for the support of traditional leftwing voters who felt "abandoned" by the Socialists.

The Catalan crisis has dominated the election campaign, with parties on the right - Vox, the PP and the centre-right Ciudadanos - taking a hardline anti-separatist stance.

The crowd responded by chanting "Torra to the dungeon".

The 84-year-old did not want to say which party got his vote at a polling station in Madrid's northern Hortaleza neighbourhood where Abascal lives. The country used to take pride in claiming that no far-right group had seats in the national parliament, unlike the rest of Europe.

This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest. The Popular Party has 21 percent and Vox has 14 percent.

Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.

And there is there is a good risk Sunday's vote will only prolong the agony in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy. No party is projected to win an outright majority.

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Turnout was down by about 1.5m on the last elections, when more than 26 million people voted. "But these changes will not make it easier to form a government", he added.

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