Far-right party wins seats in Spain’s Andalusia region

SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) – Spain’s far-right Vox party won 12 seats in an election in Andalusia on Sunday and could end up as a kingmaker in the country’s most populous region, according to preliminary results with almost 98 percent of the vote counted.

People wait in line to cast their ballots for the Andalusian regional elections at a polling station in Cuevas del Becerro, Spain, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

It was the first time the nationalist surge that has swept other European countries had reached Spain, long seen as immune because many still remember the military dictatorship that ended in 1975.

The preliminary official results showed the Socialists, who have ruled the southern region since Spain’s return to democracy, getting most votes, but falling well short of a majority with only 33 of the regional parliament’s 109 seats.

The vote was the first electoral test for both Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the new leader of the conservative People’s Party, Pablo Casado.

Votes were widely distributed and it was arithmetically possible that the conservative People’s Party and Ciudadanos could form a majority coalition with Vox’s backing.

This would rattle national politics, with a series of local, regional and European elections scheduled for May.

The preliminary results showed the People’s Party getting 26 seats and the centre-right Ciudadanos 21.

With the far-left Podemos getting only 17 seats, the Socialists would have to seek other allies if they want to keep power in Andalusia.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted: “Strong and warm congratulations to my friends from @Vox, who tonight in Spain scored a very meaningful result for such a young and dynamic movement.”

The election took place in a political landscape in which major parties find it harder and harder to secure majorities. Vox was founded at the end of 2013.

The next national election is due in 2020 but speculation has been rife for months that Sanchez, who controls fewer than a quarter of seats in the Madrid parliament, could call a snap vote.

Senior Socialists said before the election in Andalusia that they did not expect it to trigger a general election.

Andalusia has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe and is the main arrival point in Spain for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. The number reaching Spain has grown in the past year as traffic on the main sea route to Europe, from Libya to Italy, has slowed.

Reporting by Marcelo del Pozo in Seville, Sam Edwards in Barcelona, Belen Carreno in Madrid; Writing by Ingrid Melander and Sam Edwards; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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