Spain votes in election that could see Socialists lose power


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Polling stations opened at 09:00 (07:00 GMT)

The Postal Service says 2.47 million people voted by mail

MADRID, July 23 (Reuters)Spaniards began voting on Sunday in a potentially close race general election it could see Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s ruling Socialists lose power and a far-right party part of a new government for the first time in 50 years.

Voting opened at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) and will end at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), when the exit polls will be released. The final outcome is expected to be decided by less than a million votes and less than 10 seats in the 350-seat parliament, experts say.

Sanchez called the election early after the left was beaten in local elections in May, but his gamble of mistaking his opponents could backfire.

Many Spaniards are furious of being called to vote in the height of the sweltering summer while on vacation. The Postal Service reported on Saturday that mail-in ballots set an all-time high of 2.47 million, as many people choose to vote from the beach or the mountains.

“The business as usual scenario and a hung parliament are still a real possibility, probably with a 50% combined chance in our view,” Barclays wrote in a recent note to clients, citing the narrow margin in favor of the PP and general uncertainty over polls and voter turnout.

The outcome could depend on whether Feijoo or Sanchez wins the support of enough smaller parties to form a coalition government.

The Prime Minister’s Socialist Minority Government (PSOE) is currently in coalition with the far left Unidas Podemos which is running in Sunday’s elections under the Sumar platform.

Sanchez, in office since 2018, has seen his tenure as prime minister marked by handling the crisis – from the COVID pandemic and its economic effects to the politically disruptive consequences of Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid.

PP leader Feijoo, who has never lost an election in his native Galicia, has played on his reputation for boredom, selling himself as a stable and secure pair of hands, which some voters might like, experts say.

The formation of a new government depends on complex negotiations that can take weeks or months and can even end in new elections.

Such uncertainty could harm Madrid’s effectiveness as the current host of the rotating six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union as well as its spending of EU COVID recovery funds.

EXPLAINER-Spanish early election: what you need to know ID:nL1N38Y26B

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Election in Spain: polls vs ballot 2019

Snap elections in Spain: last polls, 17 July

(Reporting by Jessica Jones Editing by Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry)

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