Spain will head to the polls today, Sunday April 28 for the third time in four years after prime minister Pedro Sanchez called for a general election in February. This election comes after Catalan separatists joined forces with rightwing parties to reject the leader’s 2019 budget. The campaigns have been dominated by issues such as national identity and gender equality.
What time do the polls close today?
Voting booths opened at 9am local time (8am BST) and will close at 8pm (7pm BST), with results expected a few hours later.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is predicted to win the most votes, but could be a long way off achieving a majority in parliament to form their own government.
The likelihood that any coalition deal will take weeks or months to be brokered will feed into a wider mood of political uncertainty across Europe.
At least five parties along the breadth of the political spectrum have a chance of being in government and they could struggle to agree on a deal between them, meaning a repeat election is one of several possible outcomes.
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A few things are clear, however, based on opinion polls and conversations with party insiders.
No single party will get a majority; the Socialist party of outgoing Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is leading the race and there will be lawmakers from the far-right Vox party.
Beyond that, the result is too close to call.
It is uncertain if Mr Sanchez will manage to stay in office and how many allies he would need to gather together in order to do so.
If, in addition to far-left anti-austerity party Podemos and other small parties, Sanchez also needs the support of Catalan separatist lawmakers, talks will be long and their outcome unclear.
Opinion polls, which ended on Monday, have suggested it will be harder for a right-wing split between three parties – the centre-right Ciudadanos, conservative People’s Party and Vox – to clinch a majority, but this scenario is within polls’ margin of error and cannot be ruled out.
One of several unknowns is how big an entry Vox will make in parliament’s lower house, with opinion polls having given a wide range of forecasts and struggled to pin down the party’s voter base.
If the polls are correct, Vox could secure about 11 percent of the vote today (Sunday).
This would make the party the first far-right group to win more than a single seat in congress since Spain returned to democracy after the death of General Franco in 1975.
The high number of undecided voters – in some surveys as many as four in ten – has also complicated the task of predicting the outcome.
Also making predictions tricky are the intricacies of a complex electoral system under which 52 constituencies elect 350 lawmakers.
That system is untested in Spain’s new political era, marked by the definitive end of the long-held dominance of the PP and the Socialists.
Voters in the depopulating rural heartlands – many of whom are old and may well feel little direct connection to the country’s young, male, urban political elite – are of particular importance.
They proportionally elect more lawmakers than the inhabitants of big cities, but at the same time the cut-off point for parliamentary representation there is trickier to reach, making the outcome harder to predict the more parties there are.
When will the results be announced?
An opinion poll will be published at 8pm, and results will begin to filter through the evening.
Almost all votes will be counted by midnight, meaning we should have a result around that time.
However, in the previous two elections, the 8pm polls did not give an accurate picture of the eventual outcome.
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