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Socialists win Spanish election as far right breaks through

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and his wife Begona Gomez celebrate the result in Spain's general election in Madrid, Spain, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Spain’s governing Socialist party won Sunday’s general election, as support for the Partido Popular collapsed, including in the Campo de Gibraltar, and the far-right party Vox secured its first MPs in Madrid.

With 98% of the votes counted, the PSOE had won 123 seats in the 350-seat Spanish Congress, the lower house of parliament, up from 85 seats in the last election in 2016.

“The socialist party has won the general elections, and with them the future has won and the past has lost," said Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Socialist Workers' Party [PSOE].

“Social democracy has a great future because it has a great present and Spain is an example of that. We will form a pro-European government to strengthen and not weaken Europe.”

Spaniards cast their votes in numbers close to record highs with campaigning dominated by national identity and cultural values like women's rights rather than the economy.

This is the third national election in four years, after the first two eroded the decades-long dominance of the two biggest parties, the Socialists and the conservative Partido Popular.

The result means the Socialists are short of the majority needed to form government, setting the scene for coalition talks with leftist Unidas-Podemos and smaller Basque or Catalan nationalist parties to secure their backing.

Spain's Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said he would seek to form a pro-European government and his only condition for forming a government would be respecting the Constitution and promoting social justice.

The outcome leaves the rightwing bloc formed by the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox behind the number of MPs won by parties on the leftist side of parliament.

Together, the three rightwing parties won a total of 147 seats in Congress, compared to 158 seats won by PSOE and the leftist party, Unidas-Podemos, which dropped from 45 MPs to 35.

Including the votes of its Catalan franchise En Comu Podem, however, Unidas-Podemos seats rise to 42, putting the leftist bloc 18 seats ahead of the rightwing bloc.

Even so, the leftist bloc was still short of the 175 majority it needs to govern.

PSOE and Ciudadanos together would also have sufficient MPs to form government, although both parties ruled out a pact during the election campaign.

The populist Vox broke through to become the first far-right party to win seats in Spain’s parliament since the death of the dictator Francisco Franco.

The party secured 24 seats - significant, though fewer than expected - and in doing so, split voters on the right of the political spectrum and delivered a bruising blow to the PP, whose MPs in Congress dropped from 137 in 2016 to 65 in Sunday’s election.

Pablo Casado, who had steered the PP further to the right to try to stop it from losing votes to Vox, called the worst ballot result ever for his party "very bad", saying "we've been losing our electoral support for several elections”.

Ciudadanos increased its MPs from 32 in 2016 to 57 on Sunday on turnout that was nearly 76%, up more than eight points since the previous election in 2016.

The vote surge included a huge boost in the north-eastern Catalonia region, which has been embroiled in a political quagmire since its failed secession bid in 2017 put separatist leaders in jail while they are tried.

CAMPO RESULTS

The results were echoed across Spain, including in the Campo de Gibraltar, where the PP vote dropped sharply while PSOE and Ciudadanos rose and Vox appeared for the first time.

In La Linea, 32.6% of the vote went to PSOE, followed by Ciudadanos with 21%, Vox with 15%, the PP with 14.34% and Podemos with 12.5%.

The PSOE vote in La Linea was unchanged from 2016, while Ciudadanos was up and Podemos down slightly. The big loser was the PP, which received 31.4% of the vote in 2016 down to 14.3% on Sunday.

In Algeciras, where in 2016 the PP had secured 36% of the vote, the result was even bleaker for Spain’s traditional party of the right. On Sunday, the PP secured just 14.9% of the vote in Algeciras, where the PSOE received 28.8% of the backing, Ciudadanos 20% and Vox 19.6%.

The city's PP mayor, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, lost his seat in the Senate, the upper house of parliament in Madrid.

Results in the province of Cadiz meanwhile saw Gemma Araujo, the former PSOE mayor of La Linea, narrowly miss out on a seat in Congress. She was fourth on the Socialist list for Cadiz but the party secured only three MPs.

However one of those MPs for Cadiz, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, is tipped to return to a ministerial role in any new Socialist administration, which means he would vacate his MP seat and allow Mrs Araujo to step in.

Other municipalities in the Campo registered similar patterns in voting.

MAIN PHOTO: Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and his wife Begona Gomez celebrate the result in Spain's general election in Madrid. REUTERS/Sergio Perez