Spain election: Socialists win amid far-right breakthrough

Voters pick their ballots at the Central University of Barcelona being used as a polling station in Barcelona

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Turnout was at its highest since 2008 and particularly high in Madrid and Catalonia

Spain’s ruling Socialists are on course to be the biggest party in the third election in four years, but have fallen short of a majority.

PM Pedro Sánchez’s party is set to win under 29% and would need the support of left-wing Podemos and possibly Catalan nationalists to form a government.

For the first time since military rule ended in the 1970s, a far-right party is set to enter parliament.

Vox opposes multiculturalism, feminism and unrestricted migration.

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With most of the results in, the party was on more than 10% of the vote, which would give it 24 seats in the 350-seat parliament.

The Socialist prime minister has presented himself as a bulwark against the far right’s advance.

According to the results the Socialists are set to win 122 seats while their former coalition partner Podemos would have 42.

That would leave the two parties short of the necessary 176 for a majority, and requiring support from Catalan pro-independence parties and Basque nationalists.

The centre-left Catalan ERC was the big winner in Catalonia, with a projected 15 seats. Its leader, Oriol Junqueras, is in jail for his role in declaring independence in October 2017.

Mr Sánchez had to call the election when Catalan MPs withdrew their support last month.

The Popular Party (PP), which ruled Spain until it was dumped from power in May 2018 in a no-confidence vote, is heading for its worst election ever, with just 65 seats.

That would leave the PP far short of forming a coalition with centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and Vox.

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Leading players: Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), Pablo Casado (PP), Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos), Santiago Abascal (Vox)

Almost all votes are expected to be counted by midnight.

Who are Vox?

Led by Santiago Abascal, a former member of the conservative PP, the party has emerged in a matter of months with a vow to “make Spain great again”.

It won seats for the first time in local elections in the southern Andalusia region, and agreed to support a centre-right coalition of the PP and Ciudadanos.

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Vox rejects the far-right label but its views on immigration and Islam place it in line with far-right and populist parties elsewhere in Europe.

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Vox supporters gathered in Madrid to await the results

It wants to repeal laws against gender violence, and opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. Critics see it as a nationalist throwback to fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain until his death in 1975.

Vox aims to deport migrants legally entitled to be in Spain if they have committed an offence, and wants to prevent any migrant who comes in illegally from staying.

What were main election issues?

The highly polarised campaign was dominated by issues including national identity, gender equality and the future of Catalonia.

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Media captionWho are Spain’s far-right party?

The semi-autonomous region held an independence referendum in October 2017 and then declared its independence from Spain.

A dozen of its leaders have since gone on trial in Madrid, facing charges including rebellion and sedition. Mr Junqueras was Catalan vice-president when he was arrested.

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Analysts say support for Vox has been boosted by widespread anger at the independence drive. The party fervently opposes any concessions to the secessionists.

Women’s rights have also been a key campaigning topic. Gender-based violence has provoked debate and street protests across Spain for years and more politicians than ever are courting women’s votes.

Vox has spoken out against what it calls “radical feminism”, saying that it “criminalises” men.

Where do the parties stand on key issues?


– Responsible immigration policies. Immigration should be legal, orderly and linked to work contracts and the wish to integrate and respect the customs of the nation.
– Statute of temporary protection for Venezuelans, granting them temporary residency, freedom of movement and work permits.
– Special plan to combat illegal immigration.
– Support the work of social services in the care given to refugees who have fled dictatorships, wars or religious persecution.
– Integration of legal migrants and advance policies which guarantee that second generations feel like full Spanish citizens.
– Enable the recruitment of migrants in their own country.

– Access to Spanish citizenship by residency must be seen as a result of a process of integration of foreigners in Spain.
– Prioritise countries in America and Africa for closer co-operation
– Put in place a “state pact for safe, orderly and regular immigration”.
– Promote the common European asylum and immigration policy.
– Promote full integration and equal opportunities for so-called second generations, paying special attention to education.
– Reinforce a fair border policy.

– Establish legal and safe entry routes into Spain and guarantee the civil rights of migrants.
– Make the process of family reunification, humanitarian visas and new visa programmes more flexible, such as job searches.
– Reinforce the Maritime Rescue Service, which will remain as a public and civil service and whose sole function will be the safeguarding of life at sea.
– Shut detention centres for foreigners (CIE).
– Build a country without racism.
– Promote a new asylum law that includes those who have to flee their homes because of environmental issues.
– Guarantee that unaccompanied foreign minors receive treatment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

– Set up a “points-based” immigration system to attract the best foreign talent.
– Pursue mafia organisations that profit at the expense of the lives and safety of migrants.
– Protect the officers of the state security forces that monitor our borders.
– Increase resources for the state security forces dealing with irregular migration, reinforcing effective and non-aggressive action.

– Deport illegal migrants to their countries of origin.
– Deport migrants who are legally in Spanish territory but who have committed minor offences or serious crimes.
– Strengthen our borders. Build an insurmountable wall in Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish cities on the African continent bordering Morocco).
– End the attraction: any migrant who enters Spain illegally will not be allowed to legalise their situation, ever.
– Eliminate the “arraigo” process that allows illegal migrants to stay in Spain under exceptional circumstances.
– Raise the levels of language ability, tax contributions and integration as requirements for citizenship.


– Local offices for Assistance for Pregnant Women so that no woman stops being a mother because of her economic, social or family circumstances.
– Improve social protection and support for pregnant young women and young families, temporarily adapting, if necessary, their schooling, so that motherhood does not pose an obstacle.
– Reform the penal code to extend the option of permanent remand to cases of murder in which some gender violence is suspected.
– Training in equality and the fight against gender violence to be given to all professionals who might come across the issue in their career.
– Plan to close the wage gap in Spain.
– Encourage more women into the labour market to reach levels similar to the European average.

– End surrogacy (which is currently illegal in Spain).
– Reform of the criminal code to ensure that the lack of explicit consent of the victim is key in sexual crimes. If a woman does not say yes, it means no.
– Prohibit segregated education in schools supported by public funds.
– In schools, promote the prevention of gender violence and respect for sexual diversity.
– Reform gender identity law, eliminating the need for medical diagnoses and making it easier for under 16s to change name and sex records.
– Allow non-transferable parental leave for both parents.
– Implement urgent measures to ensure equal treatment and employment opportunities for women and men.

– Guarantee immediate housing alternatives for women and their children who suffer domestic violence.
– Introduce feminism classes.
– Equal and non-transferable paternity and maternity leave.
– Offer help with assisted reproduction and facilitate access to the latest contraceptive methods, emergency contraception and voluntary terminations for all women.
– Legal protection of trans people and the right to self-determination of gender identity and expression.
– Establish equality in local authorities.
– Launch a plan to fight domestic violence, with an annual allocation of €600m ($675m).

– End male-preference in the royal line of succession.
– Protect marriage between LGTBI people and include the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
– Approve a surrogacy law so that women who cannot conceive and LGTBI families can fulfill their dream of forming a family.
– Expand maternity and paternity leave to up to 16 weeks for each parent.
– Combat intolerance and hate speech, including on social networks.
– Promote a greater presence of women in visible positions of responsibility, guaranteeing an equality balance in public office.

– Protection of life from conception to natural death.
– Elimination of quotas (by sex or for any other reason) in electoral lists.
– Repeal gender violence law and any rule that discriminates against a person’s sex. Instead, enact a law of intra-family violence that protects the elderly, men, women and children alike. Suppression of subsidised “radical feminist” organisations, effective prosecution of false allegations.
– Extension of maternity leave to 180 days that would be extended to one year in the case of children with disabilities.

What the leaders said

Speaking after casting his vote at a polling station near Madrid, Prime Minister Sánchez said he hoped for stability.

“After many years of instability and uncertainty, it’s important that today we send a clear, defined message about the Spain we want. And from there a broad parliamentary majority must be built that can support a stable government,” he told reporters.

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Prime Minister and PSOE candidate Pedro Sánchez casts his vote

Meanwhile, Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Ciudadanos, renewed calls to oust Mr Sánchez as he cast his vote in Barcelona.

“These are not any normal elections. At stake is whether we want to remain united, if we want to continue being free and equal citizens, if we want a Spain that looks to the past or the future, a country of extremes or of moderation,” he said.

Pablo Casado, who took over the leadership of the conservative Popular Party after it was dumped from power in a no-confidence vote in May 2018, said he wanted to see a “stable government” to avoid the “failed legislatures” of the past two years.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal said many Spaniards were voting “without fear of anything or anyone”.

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