Just days after a shock Brexit, Spaniards vote in repeat elections Sunday to decide if they too want a radical change as promised by a far-left coalition led by on-the-rise Podemos. The polls, which open at 0700 GMT, are pitting voters hungry for change in a country with sky-high unemployment against those who fear this change would worsen the situation for Spain, which was on the brink of collapse just a few years ago. Britain’s surprise vote to leave the European Union has further exacerbated this cleavage, with the outgoing conservative Popular Party (PP) insisting on the need for “stability” in the face of “radicalism” and “populism”, in a thinly-veiled dig at the Unidos Podemos coalition. “If you want a united country and not a radical Spain, think about it, go for what is safe… vote for the Popular Party,” acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy said in one of his last tweets before the obligatory day of campaign silence.
Voters have the choice between four major political groupings after the emergence of Podemos and centre-right upstart Ciudadanos last year uprooted the country’s two-party dominance.
This upheaval meant that the last general elections in December resulted in a hung parliament, after which parties failed to agree on a coalition, prompting Sunday’s repeat vote.
Opinion polls suggest the results Sunday will also be fractured, with the PP coming first without a majority, tailed by Unidos Podemos, which could replace the 137-year-old Socialist party as Spain’s main left-wing force. Political leaders will have to go back to the negotiating table, under more pressure this time to form a coalition.