Spain's ruling PP party takes battering in regional and local elections following spending cuts
* PP loses outright majority in most regions
* Party gets worst results in municipal vote since 1991
* New parties make strong inroads in system shake-up
* Vote a foretaste of year-end national election
Spain's ruling People's Party (PP) took a battering in regional and local elections on Sunday with Spaniards punishing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for four years of severe spending cuts and a string of corruption scandals.
In what could be a foretaste for a national election expected in November, the PP suffered its worst result in more than 20 years as Spain's economic rebound failed to conserve the absolute majority it held in most regions.
New parties -- market-friendly Ciudadanos ('Citizens') and anti-austerity Podemos ('We Can') -- made strong headway, overturning a two-party system that has seen the PP and rival Socialists alternate in power since the end of dictatorship 40 years ago.
"It's a drubbing for the PP. The fear factor did not come into play and people voted for Podemos and Ciudadanos," said Jose Pablo Ferrandiz of leading pollster Metroscopia, adding the results heralded a new era of compromise in Spanish politics.
The same trend was likely in the November general election, he said.
Although the PP got more votes than any other party, it and the rival Socialists looked likely to fall short of overall majorities in most areas. So they would have to negotiate coalitions with minority parties in the 13 of Spain's 17 regions that voted on Sunday alongside more than 8,000 towns and cities.
With 80 percent of the votes counted, the PP was on course to get its worst result in countrywide municipal elections since 1991.
It was also set to lose its absolute majority in regional bastions Madrid and Valencia, where potential left-wing coalitions could send the party into opposition for the first time since the mid-1990s.
"I used to vote for the PP but they are burnt out, they have been in power for too long. It's time to clean the slate," said Nacho, a 56-year-old doctor in Valencia who said he would give his vote to Ciudadanos.
In Madrid city, where there has been a PP mayor since 1991, Rajoy's party was neck-and-neck with a leftist platform backed by Podemos and headed by 71-year-old retired judge Manuela Carmena.
"It's time for total change," said 31-year-old teacher Natalia Cendejas in Madrid's old quarter Lavapies, where immigrants and the working class rub shoulders with bohemians and tourists.
In Barcelona, another left-wing coalition headed by former community activist Ada Colau and backed by Podemos beat pro-independence parties Convergencia i Unio (CiU) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), in a setback for the Catalan separatist movement.