Spain’s Left-Wing Groups Probably Won Majority: Exit Poll

Spain Aims to End Political Deadlock
  • Podemos adds at least 20 lawmakers compared with December
  • Rajoy’s PP set to be biggest party, losing a handful of seats

Spain’s two main leftist parties, the anti-establishment group Podemos and the 137-year-old Socialists, probably won a majority of seats in parliament in Sunday’s election, an exit poll showed.

Podemos won about 93 seats compared with 71 at the last vote in December while the Socialists slipped to about 83 seats from 90, according to the poll by Sigma Dos published by the state broadcaster. While 176 lawmakers combined would, in theory, give the two groups a majority in the 350-seat chamber, Podemos’s surge will complicate negotiations because many Socialist activists may recoil at the thought of helping their rivals take power.

“Podemos and the Socialists could actually achieve a majority and that changes the scenario completely,” said Angel Talavera, an economist at Oxford Economics in London. Most likely, “Podemos and the Socialists will start talking -- though it will not be easy at all.”

Caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party won the most seats though its representation slipped to about 119 from 123 in December. Both the second- and third-placed groups have ruled out supporting Rajoy because of his alleged ties to a secret party slush fund. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.

Brexit Rout

Spaniards held their second general election in six months in the aftermath of the U.K. decision to abandon the European Union. Spain’s benchmark stock index plunged 12 percent, the most in almost 30 years, as investors dumped riskier assets after the Brexit vote.

“The U.K. opting out adds a lot of pressure for the parties to agree on a government,” said Carlos Aragones, the chief of staff to former PP Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and a candidate for the Senate. “We will probably have a government by September.”

Without a proper executive since December’s ballot created a political deadlock, Spain is trying to forge a new political consensus to take the country forward after the trauma of the financial crisis. While the economy has been growing for the past 11 quarters following a five-year slump, unemployment remains above 20 percent -- four times the level in the U.K. and the country’s next leader will also have to tackle the euro region’s second-biggest budget deficit.

“People are tired of the same old politics and they demanding something new,” Talavera said.

A poll by GAD3 showed Podemos and the Socialists falling just short of a majority with 173 seats between them, while the PP held its ground on 123. Even so, Sara Morais, head of research at GAD3, said the shift toward Podemos may be enough to break the impasse.

“Left-wing parties have more seats than groups on the right, which is something we didn’t have in December,” she said in an interview. “We will probably have a new government during the summer.”

Socialist Dilemma

Alberto Garzon, the communist leader who forged an alliance with Podemos in April, said the result showed that Podemos and the Socialists may be in a position to govern.

“Parliament is divided in two blocs -- conservatives and a progressives -- and we could reach a majority,” Garzon said. “There’s hope for a progressive government captained by Podemos alongside a progressive Socialist party.”

The liberals of Ciudadanos fell to about 28 seats compared with 40 last time. Turnout was the lowest on record at 6 p.m. Madrid time, the government said. Ciudadanos had sought to forge a coalition alongside the Socialists after December’s vote. The Socialists plan for a centrist alliance to hold back the challenge of Podemos which emerged two years ago to compete for left-wing voters.

“It’s a difficult situation for the Socialist party if they come in third,” said Antonio Barroso, political analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London. “They’ll have to explain either why they did not join Podemos to form a government, or deal with internal party pressure from Socialists who don’t want this union.”

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