Spain looks to set to face months of further political uncertainty after the country's fourth elections in four years further complicated an already messy political situation with the ongoing Catalan crisis, giving no party a clear mandate to govern while the far-right became a major parliamentary player for the first time in decades.
The power balance between the traditional ideological blocs has changed little since the last election in April but the breakdown of votes within conservative parties have shifted substantially. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist Workers' Party of Spain (PSOE) won 120 of the 350 parliamentary seats - three less than in April. The conservative People's Party, which alternated in government with the Socialists for decades after Spain emerged from General Francisco Franco's dictatorship in the 1970s, recovered from a disappointing result in April to take 88 seats, gaining 22.
The big political shift came as right-wing voters flocked to the far-right Vox, which only had broken into parliament in the spring for the first time. The center-right Ciudadanos slumped from 57 seats to just 10 and was replaced as the country's third-largest parliamentary group by Vox, a relative newcomer, which secured 52 seats. Joining a nationalist wave in other parts of Europe, Vox's anti-immigrant stance and particularly vehement opposition to a secessionist drive in Catalonia become the first far-right party with more than one seat since Spain returned to democracy.
With many Spaniards still remembering the Franco years, the country had long appeared immune to right-wing nationalism. But Vox leader Santiago Abascal said he would now work to build what he called "a patriotic alternative" for Spain.
Right-wing populist and anti-migrant leaders across Europe celebrated Vox's strong showing. Marine Le Pen, who heads France's National Rally party, congratulated Abascal, saying his impressive work "is already bearing fruit after only a few years." In Italy, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party tweeted a picture of himself next to Abascal with the words "Congratulations to Vox!" above Spanish and Italian flags. And in the Netherlands, anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders posted a photograph of himself with Abascal and wrote "FELICIDADES" — Spanish for "congratulations" — with three thumbs-up emojis.
Catalan separatists block Spain-France highway
The election results have also shown that the Catalan independence drive, which has turned violent following the jailing of separatist leaders in October, was at the forefront of voters' minds. In trying to appeal to Spaniards frustrated by the secession attempt, Sánchez has promised to bring back prison terms for those who hold banned referenda for independence, overturning a previous Socialist position.
in a fresh protest against the sentencing last month of nine of their leaders to lengthy jail terms, Protesters blocked a border point on the AP-7 highway that connects the Spanish region of Catalonia with France yesterday, stopping traffic in both directions. Around 80 people cut the highway at the border point of La Jonquera, some on the French side and the rest in Spain. Secretive campaign group Democratic Tsunami, which has organized mass protests including at Barcelona airport last month, claimed responsibility for the disruption. Radical separatist group CDR also called on its supporters to head to La Jonquera to block the highway.