Madrid, April 28 (IANS) Voters in Spain on Sunday headed to the polls for the third time in four years. The ruling Spanish Socialist Workers party (PSOE) expected to win the general elections but fall short of a majority.
The election is marked by rise of the far-right movement Vox, which opposes multiculturalism and has threatened to end self-rule for regions like Catalonia. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has presented himself as a bulwark against the advance of the hard right.
Polls suggest Sanchez’s party will lead the vote, but no single group will win an overall majority, the BBC reported.
The opinion poll in El Pais newspaper put the PSOE at about 30 per cent, the conservative People’s Party (PP) at around 20 per cent, the centre-right Ciudadanos and left-leaning Podemos both near 14 per cent and the far right Vox party at about 11 per cent. However, it also showed up to four in 10 voters were yet to make up their mind.
Voting began at 9 a.m. and will end at 8 p.m. on the mainland.
Speaking after casting vote at a polling station near Madrid, Sanchez 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 said.
An exit poll will be published after the end of voting, but in the previous two elections it failed to give an accurate picture of the outcome.
Almost all votes are expected to be counted by midnight.
The highly polarised campaign was dominated by issues like, national identity, gender equality and the future of Catalonia. The semi-autonomous region of Catalonia held an independence referendum in October 2017 and declared its independence from Spain weeks later.
A dozen of its leaders have since gone on trial in Madrid, facing charges, including rebellion and sedition.
Analysts say support for Vox has been boosted by widespread anger at the independence drive. The party opposes any concessions to secessionists.
Women’s rights have also been a key poll 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, however, has spoken out against what it calls “radical feminism” that it claims “criminalises” men.
With polls suggesting no clear mandate, observers say the vote could plunge Spain into a prolonged period of political uncertainty. This also means chances of a repeat election are high.
Particularly notable within the split vote is the rise in support for Vox who are set to become the first far-right party to sit in Parliament since 1982.