With markets in free fall after Britain's vote to leave the European Union, Spanish voters turned away from anti-establishment parties Sunday and endorsed the perceived safety and security of ruling conservatives.
Europe has been watching Spain to see how anger at the status quo might play out in another EU country after “Brexit.” In recent weeks, a left-wing anti-establishment alliance called Unidos Podemos (Together We Can) had surged in opinion polls to become the No. 2 force in Spanish politics, behind the conservatives. Its slogan is 'Sí se puede' — Yes we can.
But election results early Monday showed they couldn't. Unidos Podemos placed third, behind the two establishment parties, the Partido Popular, or Popular Party, and the Socialists.
Though the conservative Popular Party won 33% of the vote and the most seats in parliament, it fell short of a majority, and coalition building will likely take months. It needs to woo other parties to govern with it, but already by late Monday, the two most natural contenders, the center-right Ciudadanos, or Citizens, and the Socialists, both ruled out such support. Tricky negotiations will follow, and the Popular Party could be forced to replace Rajoy with another leader.
This was the second Spanish election in six months, after a December poll ended in a virtual four-way tie and left the incumbent conservative, Mariano Rajoy, a lame duck prime minister — attending key summits in Brussels and presiding over government but unable to get any legislation through parliament. It's a position he's likely to continue in. The same parties won roughly the same proportion of votes, but the Popular Party gained 14 seats.
Tricky coalition talks are likely to continue all summer, as Spain tries again to break its political stalemate.