Spain's Socialists, short of majority, weigh partners for forming government

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party, called the vote after failing to garner support in Congress for his 2019 budget plan.

Ciudadanos (57) and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party PSOE (123) have 180 seats together - more than enough to govern in a coalition.

Spain's Socialists are considering their next move after failing to gain a majority in Sunday's general election.

However, the mainstream conservative People's Party suffered its worst election performance in its history, with party leaders calling it a "debacle", a "catastrophe", and a "complete disaster", according to local media.

People cast their votes during Spain's general election in a polling station in Barcelona.

The PP's sudden implosion, and the splitting of Spain's broad right into three separate factions, reflects a clear European trend: centre-right parties that try to outflank the populist far right by adopting ultra-conservative, nation-first policies and rhetoric are punished at the polls - and not just by the far right.

But in order to advance, the Socialists will have to work with smaller parties to reach the 176 seats required to form a coalition government. Outside, hundreds celebrated in the street, waving red party flags and chanting "Long live Spain" and "Long live Socialism". The far-right nationalist Vox party was poised to enter the lower house of parliament for the first time with about 10 per cent of the vote.

"It is important to underline that this remains a splitting of the right-wing vote, with Vox not having made inroads among traditional left-wing areas up to now". Podemos leader Pablo Iglesais said he would happily enter a coalition.

Pablo Casado, who has steered the Popular Party further to the right to stop it from losing votes to the far-right Vox, called the ballot on Sunday the country's "most decisive" in years.

Forging cross-party alliances has proved hard for political negotiators and has unsettled Spanish governments.

With more than 90pc of ballots counted, the Socialists led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won almost 29pc of the vote, capturing 122 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

On Monday, the number two of the Ciudadanos party, Ines Arrimadas, completely shut down the idea of a coalition.

After a tense campaign, voter turnout was high - more than 75 per cent - up from 66.48 per cent at the same time in 2016, election authorities said.

The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Sanchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia's failed secession bid in 2017.

The numbers also show that Prime Minister Sanchez could continue with his current governing arrangement, counting on the parliamentary support of Podemos, Catalan secessionists and Basque nationalists, which also have increased their representation in the national parliament.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera told supporters on Sunday night his party would lead the parliamentary opposition to Sanchez.

Spain's socialist-led government can help re-start Europe by pushing its alternative to economic austerity and prioritising the fight against climate change, writes Udo Bullmann.