Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists won Spain’s national election on Sunday but large gains by the upstart far-right Vox party appear certain to widen the political deadlock in the European Union’s fifth-largest economy.

After a fourth national ballot in as many years and the second in less than seven months, the left-wing Socialists held on as the leading power in the National Parliament. With 99 per cent of the votes counted, the Socialists won 120 seats, down three seats from the last election in April and still far from the absolute majority of 176 needed to form a government alone.

The big political shift came as right-wing voters flocked to Vox, which only had broken into Parliament in the spring for the first time.

The far-right party led by 43-year-old Santiago Abascal, who speaks of “reconquering” Spain in terms that echo the medieval wars between Christian and Moorish forces, rocketed from 24 to 52 seats. That will make Vox the third leading party in the Congress of Deputies and give it much more leverage in forming a government and crafting legislation.

The party has vowed to be much tougher on both Catalan separatists and migrants.

Abascal called his party’s success “the greatest political feat seen in Spain.”

“Just 11 months ago, we weren’t even in any regional legislature in Spain. Today we are the third-largest party in Spain and the party that has grown the most in votes and seats,” said Abascal, who promised to battle the “progressive dictatorship.”

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