Span­ish vot­ers fail to agree on a new leader in in­de­ci­sive sec­ond elec­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Britain Out - By James Bad­cock in Madrid

SPAIN’S sec­ond gen­eral elec­tion in six months has done lit­tle to clear up the po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty that has reigned in the coun­try since De­cem­ber’s bal­lot, with vot­ers again giv­ing con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy vic­tory with­out a ma­jor­ity.

With 98 per cent of the vote count- ed, his rul­ing Pop­u­lar Party (PP) was on course to win 33 per cent of the vote and 137 out of the 350 seats in Congress.

The euro­zone’s fourth-big­gest econ­omy faces an un­clear fu­ture as ri­val party lead­ers had all pre­vi­ously ruled out a coali­tion deal, which would mean an­other term in of­fice for Mr Ra­joy, who has been tainted by a se­ries of cor­rup­tion scan­dals.

The pre­dicted leap for­ward by an­ti­aus­ter­ity party Pode­mos did not ma­te­ri­alise, and the tra­di­tional party of the Left, the So­cial­ist (PSOE) party was ex­pected to fin­ish sec­ond with 23 per cent of the vote.

PSOE and Pode­mos will not be able to form a ma­jor­ity be­tween them, while Ci­u­dadanos – a cen­trist party which could work with the So­cial­ists or the

PP – also lost ground, with just 13 per cent of the vote.

Pablo Igle­sias, the Pode­mos leader, ad­mit­ted that his party’s 21 per cent re­sult was a huge dis­ap­point­ment.

“We had very dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions,” he said.

Mr Ra­joy at­tempted to use the threat of a spi­ralling Euro­pean cri­sis caused by the UK’s Brexit de­ci­sion to win over un­de­cided vot­ers at the end of the cam­paign, warn­ing that Spain was in no po­si­tion to try out “ex­per­i­ments” in gov­ern­ment.

More than 12 per cent was wiped off Spain’s Ibex 35 blue-chip stock in­dex on Fri­day as in­vestors re­acted to news of Bri­tain’s ref­er­en­dum re­sult. It was the sin­gle worst day in the mar­ket’s his­tory.

Be­fore the bal­lot, Mr Ra­joy had said he wanted to form a grand coali­tion with PSOE and the cen­trist Ci­u­dadanos, only to be re­buffed by other party lead­ers, who said they would not ac­cept him as prime min­is­ter.

Hav­ing won the elec­tions in De­cem­ber, Mr Ra­joy con­tro­ver­sially de­clined the nom­i­na­tion of Spain’s King Felipe as can­di­date for prime min­is­ter be­fore par­lia­ment. Pe­dro Sánchez, the So­cial­ist PSOE leader, took up the gaunt­let in­stead.

But he failed to win a ma­jor­ity af­ter strik­ing a deal with Ci­u­dadanos but fail­ing to agree on key pol­icy is­sues with Pode­mos, no­tably the lat­ter’s in­sis­tence on a hold­ing ref­er­en­dum in Cat­alo­nia on the north-eastern re­gion’s in­de­pen­dence from Spain.

Sup­port­ers of Spain’s Pop­u­lar Party (PP) hold flags and plac­ards in Madrid as the coun­try went to the polls for the sec­ond time in six months to try to find a so­lu­tion that would give it a sta­ble gov­ern­ment

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