Conservative Spanish People’s Party expels the Socialists in regional elections

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s ruling Socialists suffered heavy losses to opposition conservatives in Sunday’s local elections with nearly 95 percent of the vote counted, underscoring their electoral weakness ahead of the general election at the end of the year.

Only three of the 12 regions holding elections will retain socialist dominance by very narrow margins, and the remainder will likely go to the conservative People’s Party, albeit through alliances or informal support pacts with the far-right Vox party.

“The map is completely changing and it’s a boost for Alberto Nunez Figo – the new leader of the People’s Party – ahead of the elections at the end of the year,” said Ignacio Jurado, a political science professor at Carlos III University.

The gains by the People’s Party (PP) suggest that the conservatives could defeat the incumbent left-wing coalition led by the Partido Socialista Obrero EspaƱol (PSOE) if they repeat the performance in national elections by December.

The numbers showed few clear majorities, with the exception of the Madrid region where provincial president Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the PPP looked poised to win re-election with an outright majority.

“In voting, the right-wing bloc expands, but not significantly. But this swing is enough to shift the center of gravity from the left to the right,” Jurado said.

The main setbacks for the socialists came from losses in the regions of Valencia, Aragon, and the Balearic Island, as well as in one of the most important socialist fiefdoms, the Extremadura region in southwestern Spain.

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“The tsunami that swept all Spanish regions today has swept away,” Javier Lampan, the outgoing socialist president of Aragon, said in a press conference in which he conceded defeat.

Leadership in the Canary Islands will be determined by agreements, but PSOE has few chances to retain power.

PSOE spokeswoman Pilar Alegria told a press conference that the results were not “what we had hoped”.

In major cities such as Valencia and Seville, where mayors were also elected, the count shifted in favor of the People’s Party, which also won an absolute majority in the city of Madrid.

Barcelona was far from the big cities, where a pro-independence party won the most votes by such a narrow margin that it would need an agreement with the Socialists to unseat the incumbent mayor, Ada Colau.

The election campaigns have been marked by many controversies, from allegations of voter fraud in small towns to an unprecedented case of kidnapping.

The count showed a return to a two-party system dominated by the Socialist Workers Party and the People’s Party after a decade of greater participation by smaller parties such as the left-wing Podemos and the centrist Ciudadanos, which largely appeared to have lost their seats to the People’s Party.

(Reporting by Jessica Jones and Belene Carino) Written by Jessica Jones. Editing by Hugh Lawson, Howard Goller and Deepa Babbington

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