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MADRID: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his right-wing rival Alberto Nunez Feijoo will each begin negotiations Monday to try to head off a fresh vote after an inconclusive snap election resulted in a hung parliament.

Defying polls that for months had written him off as defeated, the Socialist premier managed to curb the gains of the right-wing opposition.

With all the votes counted, Feijoo’s Popular Party won with 136 of the parliament’s 350 seats, while the far-right Vox, its potential ally, won 33, with the pair securing only 169, a far cry from the 176 needed for a governing majority.

Sanchez’s Socialists came in second with 122, with its radical left Sumar ally securing 31 mandates, giving the left bloc just 153.

‘They shall not pass!’

Addressing a crowd of euphoric activists shouting “No pasaran!” – the famous anti-fascist slogan of Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war meaning “They shall not pass!” – Sanchez was jubilant.

“The backwards-looking bloc that wanted to roll back all the progress we made over the past four years has failed,” said a clearly jubilant Sanchez who focused his campaign on the danger of a PP-Vox government.

“There are many more who want Spain to keep advancing than those who want to go backwards,” he said.

With their 153 lawmakers, the Socialists and Sumar will need the support of several regional formations such as the left-wing Catalan separatist ERC party or the pro-independence Basque party EH Bildu, seen as the heir of the now-defunct armed separatist group ETA.

But they will also have to negotiate the abstention of the hardline Catalan separatist party JxCat which has vowed not to help Sanchez remain in power without something in return.

If everything came together, Sanchez could assemble 172 lawmakers behind him, which is more than Feijoo, that would be enough to secure a second parliamentary investiture vote which only requires a simple majority.

Otherwise, Spain – which held four general elections between 2015 and 2019 – could find itself once again in deadlock and forced to call a new vote.

Feijoo, who narrowly won the election on paper, has insisted he has the right to form a government.

The PP “has won the election” and “as the candidate of the most-voted party, I believe it’s my duty … to try and govern our country,” he told supporters after results came in.

“Our duty now is to ensure that Spain does not enter a period of uncertainty.”

‘Don’t block me’

“It is with great determination that I will take on the task of take on the task of opening dialogue to form a government,” he said, urging the Socialists not “block” his efforts.

“We are going to be talking a lot in these coming days and weeks,” he said.

Sanchez, 51, called the snap polls in late May after his Socialist party and its far-left junior coalition partners suffered a drubbing in local and regional elections in which the right surged.

He focused his campaign on warning about the danger of a PP-Vox government in order to mobilise the electorate in a strategy that appears to have paid off, with turnout reaching almost 70 percent, some 3.5 percentage points higher than in 2019.

The vote has been closely watched from abroad over the possibility, which now seems unlikely, of a government in which the far right held its first share of power since the Franco dictatorship ended in 1975.

Vox, which jointly rules three of Spain’s 17 regions with the PP, pledged to roll back laws on gender violence, LGBTQ rights, abortion and euthanasia, as well as a democratic memory law honouring the victims of the dictatorship.


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