The Latest on the Spanish national election (all times local):
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he wants Sunday’s highly contested general election to yield a parliamentary majority that can undertake social and political reforms in the country.
Surrounded by cameras and accompanied by his wife, the 47-year old incumbent Socialist leader cast his ballot early on Sunday at a cultural center in an affluent suburban neighborhood of the Spanish capital.
He was the first of the five top candidates to vote in the general election marked by the rise of a far-right party and the high number of undecided voters.
All polls forecast that Sánchez’s Socialists will overtake the conservative Popular Party to garner the most votes, but Sánchez will be nowhere near a majority in the parliament’s Lower House.
Up for grabs are the 350 members of the Congress of Deputies, who then choose a government, and also 208 senators for the Upper House.
A divided Spain is voting in its third general election in four years, with all eyes on whether the rise of conservative nationalism will allow the right wing to unseat the incumbent prime minister.
Pedro Sánchez is set to win the most votes, but his Socialists seem far from scoring a majority in parliament to form a government on their own.
The fragmentation of the political landscape is the result of austerity that followed the economic recession, disenchantment with bipartisan politics and the recent rise of far-right populism.
Sánchez called Sunday’s ballot after a national budget proposal was rejected in the Lower Chamber by the center-right-conservative opposition and Catalan separatists pressing for self-determination in their northeastern region.
Voting stations opened at 9 a.m. (0700GMT) Sunday and will close at 8 p.m. (1800GMT), with results expected a few hours later.