Spain faces its most uncertain national election in 40 years on Sunday with newcomer parties poised for big gains against the traditionally dominant conservatives and socialists, complicating efforts to form a stable government. The ballot will mark the end of the established two-party system that has held sway since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco ended in 1975, ushering in an untested and potentially volatile era of consensus politics. It will also offer the latest snapshot of the willingness of European electorates to abandon the mainstream center-right and center-left, following significant gains by populist parties since October in elections in France and Portugal. Opinion polls show the governing conservative People’s Party (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will win Sunday’s vote but fall well short of an absolute majority.
Rajoy said on Wednesday he would consider a cross-party pact to ensure a stable administration over the scheduled four-year term, but all the main opposition parties have come out against joining the PP in a coalition.
That points to a stalemate that analysts agree would probably disrupt an economic reform program that has helped pull Spain out of recession and made inroads into a still stubbornly high unemployment rate.
But many Spaniards view the election as an opportunity to shake up a political establishment they consider inefficient and corrupt.