Spanish election: Polls to open for fourth vote in four years

Workers prepare a polling station in Madrid for Sunday's election which is not expected to bring a resolution to the deadlock

Workers prepare a polling station in Madrid for Sunday's election which is not expected to bring a resolution to the deadlock

On Sunday, Spain held general elections for the fourth time in four years.

The governing party is calling for resolution through dialogue. Further weeks or months of political jockeying now lie ahead.

The election was called by incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. "Today we are the third-largest party in Spain and the party that has grown the most in votes and seats", he said promising to battle the "progressive dictatorship".

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Socialists emerged the victor in elections in Spain on Sunday, but with large gains by the far-right Vox party the political stalemate in the European Union's fifth-largest economy appeared certain to deepen.

Across Europe, far-right parties have made gains in recent years, setting off alarm bells about the bloc's political direction.

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The Catalan separatist crisis was a key factor in crystallising support for Vox after protesters took to the streets in often violent protest over Spain's jailing of nine leaders over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid.

Speaking to reporters a day after his election victory, Vox leader Santiago Abascal slammed the border blockage as "absolutely intolerant", and insisting that the police "immediately breakup" such illegal demonstrations.

Sanchez had gambled that a repeat parliamentary election would strengthen his hand, but ended with fewer seats than in the previous ballot in April and further away from the 176 majority needed to form a government outright.

The most likely outcome appeared to be a minority Socialist government.

"There are things about Vox that I don't like, but if they can bring some order to things like migration, health and the autonomous regions, that would be good", says 54-year-old Lidia Pascual, who runs a rural bed-and-breakfast.

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Spain's United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias said he will offer assistance to the Socialists, led by interim Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, to form a stable leftist government.

Founded in 2013 by former members of the mainstream conservative People's Party, Vox is anti-muslim, nationalist, anti-feminist, Eurosceptical, socially conservative, economically liberal, and staunchly pro-Spanish unity.

Polls closed in continental Spain in the country's national election, where left-wing and right-wing parties are fiercely competing to see who can form the next coalition government as exit polls showed ruling Socialists winning the polls but short of a majority. His plans to do that may emerge when he meets his party's executive later Monday. PP leader Pablo Casado, who had in the past repeatedly ruled out supporting Sanchez in any way, made clear breaking the stalemate would be even more hard than before, but said he would wait for the Socialists' next move.

Despite poll predictions to the contrary, Sánchez had hoped the poll would give him a stronger footing but he actually saw his party seat count drop by three while his closest allies, the far-left United We Can, dropped from 42 to 35.

The far-right Vox party was on track to take third place with 52 seats, more than doubling its seats in parliament since the last general election in April. Pary leader Albert Rivera told supporters that there were "no excuses" for the bad result and that the party would have to decide its next steps.

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