Survey suggests Spanish far-right could win seats in regional vote

SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) – A survey published as voting closed suggested that Spain’s far-right Vox party could win 8-10 seats in an election on Sunday in the region of Andalusia, in what would be the first parliamentary representation for the far-right in decades.

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

The GAD3 poll, carried out for the newspaper ABC between Nov. 19 and 30, had the Socialists, who have ruled Andalusia since Spain’s return to democracy, losing support but still getting the most votes.

The poll in Spain’s most populous region kicked off a busy electoral season that could upend national politics in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy. A series of municipal, regional and European elections will follow in May.

It was the first electoral test for both Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the new leader of the conservative People’s Party, Pablo Casado, whose party was projected by the GAD3 poll to have lost votes and seats. The centre-right Ciudadanos was seen nearly doubling its vote.

Preliminary official results are expected at around 10:15 p.m. (2115 GMT).

If it is confirmed that Vox won seats, it would be the first sign of the nationalist surge that has swept other European countries reaching Spain, long seen as immune because many still remember the military dictatorship that ended in 1975.

“This is not good news for Andalusia or for the country,” Ander Gil, the Socialist party’s spokesman in the Senate, told La Sexta TV.

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 Socialists, who already led a minority government in Andalusia, will need even more backing from other parties than before, if the opinion poll is confirmed. One possible partner could be the far-left, seen coming third after the Socialists and the conservative People’s Party.

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 some 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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