Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party (PSOE) won 123 parliamentary seats out of 350 — short of an absolute majority.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) speaks to supporters while celebrating the result of the general election in Madrid, Spain, April 28, 2019.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) speaks to supporters while celebrating the result of the general election in Madrid, Spain, April 28, 2019. (Reuters)

Spain's centrist Citizens party says it wants to lead the political opposition, ruling out entering a governing alliance with the Socialists, who won Sunday's general election.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party won without the necessary majority to govern solo in a fragmented political landscape marked by the far-right’s entry into parliament. 

"The Socialists have won the general election and with it, the future has won and the past has lost," he told cheering supporters from the balcony of the party’s headquarters in Madrid, claiming victory late Sunday. 

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury has more.

Instability on the horizon

It could take weeks or months for Spain's political future to be clarified, according to Andrew Dowling, an expert on contemporary Spanish politics at Cardiff University in Wales.

"If the Socialist party wants to stay in power for the next four years, it needs to find mechanisms of accommodation to ensure a degree of stability," he said.

The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Sanchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia’s failed secession bid in 2017. 

Citizens' spokeswoman Ines Arrimadas has rejected entering any negotiations with the party of the incumbent prime minister. 

Citizens' party leader Albert Rivera built his campaign on disparaging Sanchez, criticising his attempts to negotiate with Catalan separatist parties in a bid to ease a secession crisis in the northeastern region. 

The Citizens party obtained 57 seats, more than in the last election three years ago, which would have given the Socialists an absolute majority to govern.

Even an alliance with the far-left, anti-austerity party United We Can — the most obvious potential partner — wouldn't give the Socialists the key number of 176 seats.

Sanchez, who came to power in June after ousting conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote, could seek to forge alliances with far-left Podemos and smaller groupings like Catalan separatist parties, as he had done over the past 10 months.

TRT World speaks to editor of Politikon Roger Senserrich.

Rise of the Vox

Conservative rival the Popular Party halved its presence in parliament. It bagged 66 seats compared to 137 in the previous election that saw it govern Spain with a minority government.

Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right Vox party that went from zero to 24 deputies, on Monday blamed the right's inability to unseat Sanchez on the Popular Party's poor performance.

The Vox party garnered just over 10 percent of the vote in a country that has had no far-right party to speak of since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Catalonia's long shadow

With a strong stance against feminism and illegal immigration, Vox stood out with ultra-nationalist rhetoric advocating the “defence of the Spanish nation to the end” and a hard line against separatists in Catalonia. 

The region in northeastern Spain was the scene of a secession attempt in 2017 that sparked the country’s biggest political crisis in decades and caused major concern in Europe. 

The issue has continued to cast a pall over Spanish politics. 

Sanchez was forced to call Sunday’s elections after Catalan pro-independence lawmakers in the national parliament, angered at the trial of their leaders in Madrid, refused to give him the support he needed for his 2019 budget. 

Right-wing parties for their part lambasted Sanchez, at the head of a minority government, for talking with separatists who still govern the region, accusing him of cosying up to those who tried to break up Spain. 

That controversy is likely to continue as two Catalan separatist parties gained even more lawmakers in the national parliament than they did in 2016 — up to 22 from 17. 

In a sign of the impact the crisis had on voters, Dolores Palomo, a 48-year-old domestic worker, said she had always voted for the socialists but cast her ballot for Ciudadanos this time at a polling station in Hospitalet de Llobregat, near Barcelona. 

The reason? Sanchez "is a puppet of the separatists," she said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies