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No clear winner in Spanish elections

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

National elections in Spain yesterday failed to produce a winner, with neither major party having enough support to form a government on their own.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The traditional conservative party, the center right, won the most votes, but they didn't do as well as expected. And a far-right party also underperformed. And that means the country faces political uncertainty. A far-right party has not ruled in Spain since the fascist leader, Francisco Franco, died in the 1970s.

INSKEEP: Miguel Macias is covering this from Seville. Welcome.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: I was just reading the other day that the conservative party and the far right together would probably win. What happened?

MACIAS: Yes, most polls showed Partido Popular projected to win, and the far-right Vox party, as we mentioned, was expected to do much better. But these two together just didn't get enough seats in Parliament to ensure a coalition government. And even though the conservatives obtained quite a good result compared to the previous election four years ago, their goal was to govern. This is where this far-right Vox party comes in as a key player. It was expected to do much better than they did, and in fact they lost more than a third of the seats they won last time.

INSKEEP: Yeah, the expectation was for the far right to surge. Why did they fail to do so?

MACIAS: Well, most political analysts are pointing out one thing, this so-called voto util, which basically means the useful vote. Many people here were very worried about the possibility of the far right holding real national political power in Spain again. So they may have voted for an option they did not like, but did better than the far-right Vox party. And that didn't help the conservatives either.

INSKEEP: OK, so if the parties on the right did not prevail, does that mean the parties on the left, the ruling socialists and others, can govern?

MACIAS: Well, it's complicated. The socialists did not win enough seats either. So we need to look at the smaller parties. Some of them may hold only five seats, seven seats or even one seat. They're going to be very sought after by the left and the right.

These are all regional parties. We're talking about the Catalans, the Basque - parties from other regions, all with their special interests. These smaller parties are not about to give away their support for free. They will ask for things. But overall, Steve, analysts are saying the political left has a much better chance to persuade these smaller parties to give them their support.

INSKEEP: This is particularly interesting because people were writing about the rise of the far right across Europe. Of course, a far-right party is in power in Italy. Spain was, in some minds, expected to be next. What does it mean that the conservatives and the far right had to take a step back?

MACIAS: It's a little early to tell, but one thing is for sure, Steve, we've seen far-right politicians in other European countries come back time and time again. And Vox has a style - combative, sort of toxic, with disregard for the facts - that has permeated the Spanish politics now. So Vox might have done poorly in this election, but they've certainly changed the tone of public discourse in Spain.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention, an alternative government is not formed. This isn't over. What happens now?

MACIAS: Well, we don't know. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was celebrating last night, even though he did not win the election. But he's known to be a survivor, a fighter. He leads a coalition government right now so he knows how to line up the votes in parliament. So he will surely try again.

But remember, the conservatives still won the most votes. And so if no one can form a coalition, it's likely Spain will go to the polls again.

INSKEEP: A repeat election. Miguel, thanks so much.

MACIAS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Reporter Miguel Macias in Seville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.