Spain faces political uncertainty as ruling party loses majority and far-Left surges in election
A strong showing by a pair of upstart parties in Spain's general election upended the country's traditional two-party system, with the ruling Popular Party winning the most votes but falling far short of a parliamentary majority.
Days or weeks of negotiations may be needed to determine who will govern Spain, with the new far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos parties producing shockwaves because of strong support from voters weary of high unemployment, a seemingly endless string of official corruption cases and disgust over the country's political status quo.
In past elections, the Popular Party and the main opposition Socialists were the established powerhouses and needed support from tiny Spanish parties to get a majority in parliament only when they didn't win one from voters.
But Podemos came in a strong third place and Ciudadanos took fourth in their first election fielding national candidates - setting up a period of uncertainty as parties negotiate with each other to see which ones may be able to form a governing alliance.
"Spain is not going to be the same any more and we are very happy," said a jubilant Pablo Iglesias, Podemos leader.
With 99.6pc of the vote counted, the Popular Party won 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of Parliament - far below the 186-seat majority it won four years ago after beating the Socialists in a landslide.
The Socialist Party received 90 seats, while Podemos and allies won 69 and Ciudadanos got 40.
Analysts said the outcome would make it extremely difficult for the Popular Party to form a government because it cannot get a majority of seats in parliament by allying with Ciudadanos, its most natural and closest ideological partner. Spain has never had a so called "grand coalition" that would bring the Popular Party and the Socialists together.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told cheering supporters late last night that he would try to form a government but didn't provide any details of how he might accomplish that goal.
"This party is still the No. 1 force in Spain," Rajoy declared.
But Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said the result clearly shows "Spain wants a move to the left".