We are about to close the live blog. Here are the most important developments from Sunday’s general election in Spain.
Socialist PSOE wins general election
With more than 99% of votes counted, the socialist party, PSOE, has won Spain’s 2019 general election and looks set to enter negotiations with Podemos to form a leftwing coalition government with prime minister Pedro Sánchez as leader. PSOE won 123 of the 350 seats in parliament.
Far-right surges on terrible night for mainstream conservatives
Sunday’s vote was a humiliation for the People’s party (PP), the traditional conservative party of government in Spain, as the anti-feminist, anti-immigration Vox party won 24 seats in parliament, the most significant victory by a far-right party since the end of Franco’s dictatorship. PP’s leader, Pablo Casado, admitted the election results were “very bad” after the number of seats in parliament held by his party more than halved from 137 in 2016’s vote to 66.
Catalan independence could slip off political agenda
It is too early to assert with certainty, but Pedro Sanchez could be free to form a government without relying on the backing of the Catalan separatists who demand an independence vote as the price for their support. The issue collapsed his government at the start of this year and caused Sunday’s election, but a Catalan independence vote could slip off the political agenda if no party in the ruling coalition supports it.
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With nearly 90% of votes counted, it seems certain that Pedro Sánchez’s socialist party will be able to govern without the support of the Catalan nationalists that brought down his previous administration, leaving the pro-independence movement with a voice in parliament but little leverage. Sánchez should be able to reply on support from the Basque parties and independents to get the majority he needs in parliament.
In Catalonia itself, the story has been the rise of the Republican Left (ERC) led by Oriol Junqueras, currently on trial for his role in the illegal unilateral declaration of independence in 2017, at the expense of Together for Catalonia, the party of former president Carles Puigdemont. ERC even overtook Puigdemont in Girona, his heartland in the north of the region.
While Junqueras has taken a conciliatory line with Madrid of late, Puigdemont has continued to seek confrontation and it seems that voters have wearied of this approach. As well as supporting ERC, there has been a significant swing towards the socialists, especially in the Barcelona region, suggesting that voters want to focus on social issues rather than questions of sovereignty.
Junqueras said he was prepared to support a Sánchez government if it agreed in principle to a referendum on independence, something the socialist leader said he would never do. As things stand, he won’t need Junqueras and the Catalan issue looks set to lose its place at the centre of the national debate.
If the forecasts are right, Junts per Catalunya, led by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, has been rejected by Catalan voters in favour of the more conciliatory Republican Left led by Oriol Junqueras, currently on trial for his part in the illegal declaration of independence in 2017, with 14 seats to Puigdemont’s five.