Spanish election: Polls open for fourth vote in four years

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Incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is expected to win with a minority again

Voters in Spain have returned to the polls for a fourth general election in as many years.

After the last election in April, the governing Socialist Party (PSOE) won the most seats but fell short of a majority and was unable to form a coalition.

Spain has not had a stable government since 2015.

The vote is being overshadowed by unrest in Catalonia and the rise of the far-right Vox party.

After April’s vote, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez entered coalition talks with the leftist Podemos party, but these collapsed – causing them to miss a September deadline to form a new government.

At a closing rally on Friday, Mr Sánchez told supporters: “There are only two options: either vote for the Socialists so that we have a government, or vote for any other party to block Spain from getting a progressive government.”

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The five main candidates are PP leader Pablo Casado, Pedro Sánchez, Vox leader Santiago Abascal, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, and Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

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Thousands of people held a rally in Barcelona on the eve of the election

He is arguably at an advantage in his current position as caretaker leader, despite having never won a parliamentary majority.

But the latest opinion polls show none of the parties winning a majority.

Instead they show Socialists in the lead again, but with fewer votes than in April’s election, and the conservative People’s Party (PP) and Vox making gains.

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The election also comes less than a month after Spain’s Supreme Court handed out lengthy jail sentences to nine Catalan independence leaders, over their role in organising an outlawed referendum in 2017.

The move triggered protests and violence on the streets of Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia.

The Catalan crisis has dominated the election campaign, with parties on the right – Vox, the PP and the centre-right Ciudadanos – taking a hardline anti-separatist stance.

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Support for Vox surged in the last election, with the party winning 24 seats in parliament with more than 10% of the vote. Meanwhile, the PP suffered its worst-ever general election performance.

Who won seats in April?