BARCELONA, SPAIN – JULY 23: A man votes at the historic building of the Universitat de Barcelona on July 23, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. Voters in Spain go to the polls on July 23 to cast their ballots and elect Spain’s next government. (Photo by Javier Mostacero Carrera#1102751#51C ED/Getty Images)
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Spanish Conservative Party PP [Partido Popular] is on track to lead negotiations to form a new government in Madrid, exit polls have shown, suggesting this could be the end of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s socialist rule.
The PP obtained between 145 and 150 seats, followed by the PSOE, with between 113 and 118 seats, according to the first exit polls published by RTVE. An absolute majority requires 176 seats.
In the absence of a clear majority for either of the two main parties, the focus is now largely on who will be the third largest political force to emerge from Sunday’s election. So far it is unclear whether the far-right Vox party came third or fourth, as exit polls put it neck-and-neck with the left-wing Sumar party.
One of the biggest questions in this election is whether the PP will formally join forces with Vox, which could mark the first time the far-right has returned to power since Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975. Exit polls suggest the right-wing bloc could potentially have an active majority.
PP and Vox have previously teamed up to govern in three of the country’s regions, but it could be more difficult for them to work together at the national level.
Members of Alberto Feijóo’s conservative party have expressed concern about Vox’s anti-LGBT rights and anti-immigration policy. Vox has also been criticized by top politicians for opposing abortion rights and denying climate change, among other measures.
The early elections were produced by the resounding defeat of the socialist PSOE in the regional and municipal elections in May. The general elections were originally scheduled for the end of this year.
Sunday’s vote was the first to take place over the summer. The extreme heat felt in different parts of the country in recent weeks may have shed light on climate policy ahead of the vote.
Pedro Sánchez has served as Spain’s prime minister since 2018. He has been criticized for pardoning politicians who support regional independence. During his tenure, there have also been problems with the “only yes means yes” sexual consent law, which reduced jail time for many convicted rapists through a loophole.
However, Sánchez’s economic record proved to be solid before the vote. Spain’s economy experienced a growth rate of more than 5% in 2022 and is expected to expand by around 1.5% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Inflation in Europe’s fourth largest economy is also one of the lowest. In June, Spain became the first economy to report an inflation rate below 2% across the region, below the all-time highs recorded in 2022, according to the country’s economy ministry. However, political experts have said that Sunday’s vote focused more on cultural and social issues.