Polarized Spain prepares to head to polls in snap election

Madrid, Jul 22 (EFE).- Spain is preparing to head to the polls on Sunday, after an acrimonious two-week campaign that has laid bare a polarized electorate.

The Socialist Party (PSOE), with incumbent prime minister Pedro Sánchez at the helm, say they are confident of victory after starting the campaign on the backfoot following May’s heavy defeat to right-wing parties in the regional and municipal elections.

That poor showing is what led Sanchez to call the snap election in the middle of summer, an unusual move that was criticized by right-wing parties and their supporters.

It is a gamble that he hopes will stem the rise of the far-right nationalist Vox, which is expected to perform well at the polls and could form a right-wing coalition government with the conservative People’s Party (PP) led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

To remain in power, PSOE will need to secure the most votes and will likely have to join forces with a third-placed Sumar – the successor to Unidas Podemos, PSOE’s junior government partner – for “another four years of progressive coalition”.

On the other hand, Feijóo’s PP heads to the polls with the momentum of its May victory and the wind in its favor in the pre-election surveys.

With some ups and downs, all the surveys have maintained that trend. The PP is expected to win clearly, although it will need some kind of partnership with Vox for Feijóo to take office.

Feijóo ran a risk-free conservative campaign, with just a single face-to-face televised debate with Sánchez on a private station, with the PP leader declining an invitation for a second debate on public television (TVE).

However, the PP candidate has been haunted by photos from the 1990s of him with Marcial Dorado, a notorious drug trafficker, which his opponents have severely criticized as “disturbing”, especially given Feijóo’s inability or unwillingness to provide a “clear” answer as to the nature of their relationship.

While all surveys show that only two candidates – Sánchez and Feijóo – are likely to garner enough support to be sworn in, two other parties are likely to hold the key to forming a government: Sumar on the left, and Vox on the right.

Sumar leader Yolanda Diaz, current Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Minister, overcame a rocky start to the campaign, and is now confident of victory.

Vox, meanwhile, has warned of the risks of the tactical vote called for by the PP and has asked its supporters to trust in the party as the only way to remove Sánchez from the Moncloa.

This election, unusually being held at the height of summer, will see the highest proportion of postal votes in Spanish history, with some 2.47 million ballots being mailed in.

During the campaign both PP and Vox have pushed fears of potential fraud with postal votes. However, the national postal service, Correos, said in a press release that the process has been a “success”, with more than 93% of the requests attended at midnight on Friday.

“Pending the final data, the number of postal votes already processed represents the highest number recorded in the history of Spanish democracy,” Correos added.EFE


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