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Spain: Far-right party wins seats in regional parliament

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Picture taken on December 01, 2018 shows a woman wearing a pin that reads "Vox, now" during a demonstration called by the far-right VOX party. (Photo by AFP)

A far-right party has won seats in a Spanish regional parliament for the first time since the country returned to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, results in Andalusia's election showed.

The small Vox party took 12 seats in the polls on Sunday, handing a majority to right-wing parties in the southern Spanish region governed by the Socialists for the last 36 years.

The result means that Vox, which opposes illegal immigration and Catalan independence, has exceeded even the most optimistic poll predictions which had forecast a possible five seat win.

A man walks past election posters in Andalusia on December 2, 2018 during the Spanish region's election. (Photo by AFP)

The Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) scored the worst result in its history, winning 33 seats.

Its potential ally on the left Adelante Andalusia (Forward Andalusia) picked up only 17 seats, depriving the left of a majority, while the conservative Popular Party (PP) won 26 seats and the Ciudadanos liberals took 21.

The polls had been seen as the first of a series of tests for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

It was Sanchez's first electoral test since taking office in June after winning a surprise vote of no-confidence in the Parliament against the previous PP government of Mariano Rajoy over a corruption scandal.

His Socialists had ruled Andalusia since 1982.

The vote, however, is a mere foretaste of the coming “super election year”: 2019 will see municipal, regional, and European elections and perhaps even an early general election to coincide with the other May polls.

All eyes will now be on Vox, which can try to use Andalusia as a springboard in next year's elections.

If it did win a seat in the next general election, it would be the first time a far-right party had had a presence in Spain's Lower House of Parliament since 1982.

In all, 6.5 million were eligible to vote in the election in Andalusia, the country's most populous region and among its poorest.

The PSOE's Susana Diaz -- who last year unsuccessfully challenged Sanchez for the party leadership -- had been seeking to retain the regional presidency while also giving Sanchez and the national party a fillip.

But Vox sought to throw a spoke in their wheels by adding its voice to traditional conservative forces led by the PP and market-friendly Ciudadanos, which has in recent years challenged the PP for the mantle of Spain's dominant liberal force.

"These elections are key as a first step in the removal of Pedro Sanchez" and the PSOE from the government, PP leader Pablo Casado told Radio COPE on Friday.


Casado said a defeat in its traditional southern fiefdom would render the PSOE's attempt to retain power nationally "unsustainable." The Socialists are already walking a tightrope given they hold just 84 seats in the 350-seat National Assembly.

Both the PP and Ciudadanos had said during the campaign that if rightwing forces together won a majority of seats they would not rule out accepting support in the regional chamber from Vox.

Vox's campaigning had mainly been against illegal immigration and any decentralization of powers from Madrid.

"Vox is going to back whichever option entails throwing out Susana Diaz and the Socialist Party" from the regional administration, party deputy-leader Javier Ortega Smith said on Saturday.

Diaz, meanwhile, called for "stability" as she ended her campaign, warning voters against forces of the right and far-right that "want to take us backwards."

Turnout by 1700 GMT was 46.4 percent, the regional government said -- five points down on the last election in 2015.

(Source: AFP)

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