Spain’s two major parties, The People’s Party of Prime Minister Marioano Rajoy and the Socialist opposition, have lost significant voting share in the national election, with the ruling conservative party expected to win narrowly but without an absolute majority.
Voters seem to have rebelled against austerity measures by supporting the anti-austerity We Can Party (Podemos) and the centre-right liberal Citizens Party (Ciudadanos), thereby eroding the two-party system.
As voting closed at 7am (AEDT) on Monday, several exit polls (which in Spain are unreliable) predicted The People’s Party would win the most votes, followed by the Socialists, We Can and Citizens, with no clear ruling majority (50 per cent of votes) for any party.
If exit polling is correct, the conservatives would be forced to form a coalition in order to govern for another four-year term.
Analysts predicted a hung result could disrupt the government’s economic reform program, which has helped pull Spain, the fifth-largest economy in the EU, out of recession.
The share of votes won by the two major parties would also be at its lowest in decades, signalling the end of the two-party system. The two parties may have won less than 50 per cent in this poll, compared to 65.4 per cent in 1989 and 83.8 per cent in 2008, The Guardian reported.
The People’s Party look like winning between 114 and 124 seats in the 350-strong parliament, 52 to 62 seats short of the 176 needed for an absolute majority, with the Socialists on 79-85, We Can 70-80 and Citizens 46-50.
If confirmed, such results would give way to coalition-building talks that could go over many weeks as no easy pact appears in reach. The Spanish constitution does not set a specific deadline to form a government after the election.
Many potential outcomes are possible, including a centre-right pact between the PP and Citizens, a centre-left alliance between the Socialists and We Can, a minority administration or fresh elections.
Prime Minister Rajoy said on Wednesday he was open to forming a coalition, but the other three main parties have publicly opposed the idea of governing with his party.