FOR 33 years, two parties have taken turns to run Spain. No more. Elections on Sunday, December 20th, produced no outright winner. The conservative People’s Party (PP) won just 29% of the vote or 123 seats, down from 186 in 2011 and well short of the 176 needed to form a government. The Socialists (PSOE) claimed second place with 22%, down from 29% in 2011. Both lost ground to new parties.
Upstarts Podemos, a leftish movement, claimed 21% of the vote while liberal Ciudadanos won 14%—less than expected. Both parties campaigned against corruption and cronyism. Their support has been fuelled by biting austerity and a stagnant economy, though the economy is now growing again and unemployment, while still high, has begun to fall.
The coming days will be marked by horse-trading and negotiations as politicians try to secure a coalition. One possible outcome is an alliance between PP and Ciudadanos. Another is a left-wing union of the PSOE and Podemos. A government made up of parties that span the political spectrum is not off the table either. And separatist movements, which performed well in the Basque country and Catalonia, could also feature in a new government. Neither the PP and Ciudadanos nor PSOE and Podemos can form a majority coalition on their own. The key to forming a government may lie in the hands of smaller regional parties who will have demands of their own. What is certain is that traditional Spanish rule has been shaken up.