MADRID, May 28 (Reuters) – Spain’s ruling Socialists suffered a landslide defeat to opposition conservatives in local elections on Sunday, with around 95% of votes counted, showing their electoral vulnerability ahead of year-end general elections.
Of the 12 regions holding elections, only three will retain Socialist dominance by the narrowest of margins, with the rest going to the conservative People’s Party, albeit with coalitions or informal support agreements with the far-right Vox party.
Ignacio Jurado, professor of political science at the Carlos III University, said that “the map is changing completely and the new leader of the PP – Alberto Núñez Feijo – is encouraging.”
The People’s Party’s (PP) victories indicate that the conservatives could unseat the current left-wing coalition led by the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) if they mirror their performance in national elections by December.
The numbers showed few clear majorities, except for the PP’s regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuzo winning re-election with an absolute majority in the Madrid region.
“The right wing is expanding in the polls but not dramatically. But the swing is enough to shift the center of gravity from the left to the right,” Jurado said.
Major setbacks for the Socialists came from losses in Valencia, Aragon, and the Balearic Islands, as well as in the southwestern Spanish region of Extremadura, the most important Socialist country.
“The tsunami that hit all the Spanish regions today has turned us upside down,” Javier Lampán, the outgoing Socialist president of Aragon, told a news conference where he conceded defeat.
The leadership in the Canary Islands will be determined by deals but the PSOE has little chance of retaining power.
PSOE spokeswoman Pilar Alegria told a press conference that the results were not “what we expected”.
In major cities such as Valencia and Seville, where mayors were also elected, the numbers shifted in favor of the PP, which won an absolute majority in Madrid.
Barcelona was an outlier among big cities, with a pro-independence party winning by a narrow margin, needing a deal with the Socialists to oust the incumbent mayor, far-left Ada Cola.
The campaign was marked by several controversies, from allegations of voter fraud in small towns to an unprecedented kidnapping case.
The count shows a return to a two-party system dominated by the PSOE and the PP after a decade of increased participation by smaller parties such as the left-wing Podemos and Ciudadanos.
Reporting by Jessica Jones and Belen Carreno; By Jessica Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Howard Koller and Deepa Babington
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