The leader of Podemos party Pablo Iglesias told his supporters that this is a “historic” day for Spain, as it ushers in a new political era.
“Today is a historic day for Spain… We are starting a new political era in our country,” Iglesias said. “Spain is not going to be the same anymore.”
Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) party will still take the largest share of the votes, though it will lose its parliamentary majority when the results of its left-wing rivals are combined. It was earlier projected to win 26.8 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll conducted by the state broadcaster RTVE.
“PP is the strongest force and the one chosen by the Spanish people,” said its spokesman at a press conference, as the exit polls were announced. The party captured 44 percent of the vote in the last election in 2011.
RTVE said the established Socialist party gained 20.5 percent of the vote, and the anti-austerity Podemos, established less than two years ago, garnered 21.7 percent. Due to the structure of the voting system, pollsters predicted that the Socialists would capture several more seats than Podemos.
The year-old Cuidadanos, considered a reformist, pro-business party, came in fourth place, with an estimated 15.2 percent.
“The two-party political system is over and we are entering a new era in our country,” said Podemos’s deputy Inigo Errejon.
RTVE obtained its results through 180,000 face-to-face interviews outside polling stations.
But Cuidadanos and Podemos have both painted themselves as protest parties, unwilling to be a part of the old political order, with its baggage of corruption and economic hardship. Spanish wages have still not recovered to 2008 levels despite years of austerity implemented by both the Socialists and PP. Unemployment is at 21.6 percent – gradually falling, but still the second-highest in the EU after Greece.
It is possible that Podemos and the Socialists will unite to form a left-wing coalition, though Rajoy said he would attempt to prevent this at all costs.