Boost for Rajoy's party in Spain's regional elections
Acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party has received a boost in Spain's regional elections, while the opposition Socialists lost ground.
People in the Basque and Galicia regions voted for 75-seat regional parliaments, but the results failed to indicate a clear path forward to ending the country's prolonged political stalemate.
Mr Rajoy has been running a caretaker government for almost a year after two inconclusive rounds of national elections in December and June. The conservatives won the most seats in both elections, but were unable to form a governing coalition, and another election is likely in December.
In Galicia, the Popular Party won a majority of seats, with 41, while the Basque Nationalist Party won 29. The Basque party won the most seats in the Basque region.
The Socialist Party lost seats in both regions. The results could cause them to abstain in a parliamentary vote of confidence that would allow Mr Rajoy to form a minority Popular Party-led government.
The Popular Party hopes the strong showing in Galicia, Mr Rajoy's home region, could demonstrate that his party enjoys the support of the conservative electorate despite recent corruption scandals and boost his efforts to form a minority government.
Rajoy has the support of 170 MPs in the 350-seat national parliament - 137 of them from his own party. But he is still six short of the majority needed to form a government. The Basque Nationalist Party holds five seats and their support would leave him needing just one more vote or an abstention.
But the Basque party's results in their regional elections make it unlikely that it would support Mr Rajoy.
"It's difficult to imagine that the Galician and Basque elections are going to change the situation at the national level," Navarra University public opinion professor Manuel Martin Algarra said.
The Basque Nationalist Party is more likely to seek support from the opposition Socialists, than from the Popular Party, Mr Martin Algarra said.
He said that at the most, poor regional results for the Socialists - already reeling from their worst-ever showing in the June election, with 85 seats - may put pressure on the party to abstain in a future investiture vote at the national parliament and let Mr Rajoy form a minority government.
Aside from Spain's traditional socialist and conservative parties, the business-friendly Ciudadanos and left-wing Podemos parties have sprung up in recent years, winning third and fourth place respectively in parliament.
Spain never has had a coalition government, and the country's main political parties are struggling with the idea of negotiating deals in an arena with new political powers.
Parliament has until October 31 to form a minority government or the country will face its third election in a year.