2 upstart Spanish parties make big inroads in Andalusia vote

AP News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2015 5:55 PM

MADRID (AP) — Two fledgling parties that have shaken up Spain's political scene made significant inroads in their first regional bids for power in Andalusia's election Sunday, suggesting they could threaten the nation's traditional two-party system in other votes due later this year.

The left-wing party Podemos, with links to Greece's anti-austerity Syriza, came third by winning 15 seats in the 109-seat Andalusia parliament as polls had predicted. Podemos means "We Can."

"The political map in Andalusia and Spain has changed," Podemos candidate Teresa Rodriguez said.

Fellow newcomer Ciudadanos, a centrist party whose name means "Citizens," finished fourth with nine seats. Ciudadanos wants to grow out of its original base in Catalonia to become a national power.

"There may be people who will read the news tomorrow and think they've won," said Albert Rivera, leader of Ciudadanos. "But we all know the two-party system has died."

With 96 percent of the votes counted, the big loser on the day was the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy which went from 50 seats won in 2012 to 33 on Sunday.

Socialists under Susana Diaz, their leader in Andalusia, won 47 seats, meaning they will have to make alliances to stay in power in their traditional heartland.

The results will be raked over by political leaders and analysts across the country, because other regional elections are due in May and a general election will be held before the year's end.

The Socialists have governed Andalusia continuously since 1982, but the two newcomers blame Spain's political establishment for Andalusia's Spain-leading 34.2 percent unemployment rate.

An important part of the region's 6.5 million voters have shown their disillusionment with the traditional political forces.

Two of Andalusia's former Socialist leaders have been named as suspects in an investigation into how a fund established to help the unemployed was allegedly fraudulently managed, benefiting politicians, trade union leaders and even some of their family and friends.

The Popular Party has also been rocked by scandal, with former treasurer Luis Barcenas in jail after he was found to have held millions of euros in secret Swiss bank accounts.