MADRID (AP) — Spain's political parties are launching a two-week campaign leading up to a June 26 election aimed at breaking six months of political paralysis after a December vote shattered the nation's traditional two-party system.
Campaigning begins at midnight with rallies led by acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party, Pedro Sanchez of the Socialists, Pablo Iglesias of the far-left Unidos Podemos alliance and Albert Rivera of the business-friendly Ciudadanos party.
Polls suggest the Popular Party will win the most votes as it did on Dec. 20 but again fall far short of the parliamentary majority it held from 2011-2015. The surveys have indicated the Socialists and Unidos Podemos will vie for 2nd place and Ciudadanos will come in fourth.
The Popular Party and the Socialists alternated running Spain for decades after the country returned to democracy following the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
But voters angry with high unemployment, unpopular austerity measures and corruption scandals gave strong support to upstart newcomers Podemos and Ciudadanos in December and appear poised to do so again on June 26. Podemos has since boosted its strength by joining forces with the much smaller the United Left party.
If a coalition cannot be formed this time, Spain would face a third election in the fall.
"This will likely be a drawn-out process and the outcome cannot be taken for granted, even if the parliamentary math supports it," said Federico Santi, a London-based analyst with the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.
Possible coalitions include the Popular Party with Ciudadanos, the Socialists with Unidos Podemos or a so-called grand coalition of the Popular and Socialist parties that has never happened in Spain but has elsewhere in Europe.
"A repeat of events earlier in the year, with interlocking vetoes preventing any agreement cannot be ruled out," Santi said in a note to clients. "This would likely leave the country without a functioning government for over a year."
This story clarifies that Podemos is in an alliance called Unidos Podemos.