Spain returns to polls in bid to end political deadlock

OVIEDO, Spain 

Polling stations opened at 9 a.m. local time (0800GMT) across Spain, where around 37 million citizens are eligible to cast their votes in country’s fourth national elections in four years. 

Spain hasn’t had a stable government since 2015, when new political parties broke onto the scene, turning Spain’s mainly bipartisan parliament into a highly fragmented one in which politicians have largely failed to cooperate.

The last national elections were held in April 2019. But the Socialist Party, which received the most number of votes, was unable to drum up the needed support from other parties. Talks even broke down with the party’s natural ally — the far-left party Unidas Podemos.

The Sunday’s polls will close at 8 p.m. local time (1900GMT) and the results are expected to be announced late at night.

But the results are expected to be far from clear. No party is expected to come close to winning a majority, so the next stage is likely to be negotiations.

“First we will vote, and later we’ll look at the seats and then it’s time to govern,” Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Socialists, told media after casting his ballot in the capital Madrid shortly after the polls opened.

The Socialists are predicted to win the most seats again.

One of the biggest issues preventing cooperation is the Catalan separatist movement. While Podemos calls for dialogue and negotiations, Sanchez has taken a tougher position.

Still, three main right-wing parties in the country have called for more action against the separatist government and independence protesters.

In Madrid region, where the tree parties govern as a coalition, they passed a bill calling for imposing a ban on the separatist parties.

Vox, a far-right party, is expected to see the largest gains this time around, with some polls suggesting it could become the third-largest party in the country.

Shortly after polls opened, Vox tweeted that there were irregularities in voting and some polling stations did not have enough ballots with the party’s name on it.

Thousands of extra police personnel have been deployed in Catalonia to supervise the voting process. So far, there have been no untoward incidents reported in the region.
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