Spain Holds Landmark Election

Spain Holds Landmark Election Spain Holds Landmark Election

Spaniards are voting in a landmark election that will see more than two parties compete for power for the first time in decades.

Newcomers Podemos, an anti-austerity party, and Citizens, a liberal party, are challenging the ruling Popular Party and the Socialists.

Opinion polls have suggested Premier Mariano Rajoy’s PP is narrowly ahead. While he has been in power, Spain has emerged from a financial crisis into a period of economic growth, BBC reported.

The conservative PP currently has a majority in Spain’s lower house of parliament.

New parties Citizens and Podemos are fielding national candidates for the first time. Both look set to take a large chunk of the vote, ending the power monopoly of Spain’s traditional heavyweights.

It is almost certain that no party will get a majority of MPs in parliament, BBC says, meaning some form of coalition will have to be agreed.

Polling stations opened at 09:00 local time (0800 GMT) and close at 1900 GMT. Exit polls are expected minutes afterwards and complete results are due two days later.

  Return to Growth

The economy, corruption allegations and a separatist drive in the prosperous northeastern region of Catalonia have been dominant issues in the election.

Rajoy’s administration adopted unpopular austerity measures and job reforms that have been credited with returning the Spanish economy to growth.

However, unemployment remains high at 21%, the second-highest rate in the EU after Greece, although it has fallen from its 2013 peak of 27%.

The PP has also been damaged by corruption scandals.

The central government in Madrid has also had to contend with an attempt by Catalonia to break away from the rest of Spain.

Pro-independence parties in Catalonia won an absolute majority in regional elections in September and a month later passed a motion to begin the process of declaring independence.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has revoked that motion, but Catalonia’s leaders said they would ignore it.

Rajoy has vowed to quash the threat to Spanish unity, but other parties favor negotiations to devolve more power to the region, which accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s economic output.

He has also raised questions about his future by including his deputy, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, on campaign posters and fielding her in his place during a leaders’ TV debate.

His campaigning has also not been easy—a teenager punched him in the face during a visit to the town of Pontevedra in the northwest.