May 25, 2015 6:30 AM

New parties to play key role after Spanish local elections

The Associated Press

MADRID (AP) Two new parties have carved out a kingmaker role in many Spanish cities and regions following local elections that dealt a serious blow to the governing conservative Popular Party.

The result of Sunday's vote for seats in more than 8,100 town halls and 13 of 17 regional governments hints of a significant shake-up ahead for Spain's general election this fall.

The Popular Party won the most overall Sunday, capturing 27 percent of the vote, but it lost the absolute control it had in eight of the 13 regions, including in its traditional power bases of Madrid and Valencia. The party lost 2.5 million voters since the last local elections four years ago.

The opposition Socialists, who came in second with 25 percent of the vote, saw their total number of supporters drop half a million to 5.6 million.

But the left-wing We Can party and the centrist Citizens party, two organizations that only began operating on a national level last year, finished a strong third and fourth.

We Can leader Pablo Iglesias said Monday the result spelled the end of the two-party system that has dominated Spain for nearly 40 years.

"The message is that 2015 will be the year of change," he said.

The two new parties had sought to capitalize on the anger that many Spaniards feel toward the Popular Party, and their Socialist predecessors in government, for their handling of a nearly 8-year economic crisis that has left the country with a 24 percent unemployment rate.

Between them, the Popular Party and the Socialists only garnered 52 percent of the nationwide vote Sunday, down from 65 percent in 2011 election, but they did manage to avert the political meltdown some had predicted.

The conservatives appear to be losing their 20-year grip on Madrid's prestigious town hall, where a left-wing coalition of new parties, including We Can, is best positioned to install their candidate for mayor.

Barcelona, the country's second-largest city, saw a huge symbolic upset as Ada Colau, a popular anti-eviction advocate backed by We Can, capitalized on local disaffection to beat the region's long dominant conservative Convergence and Union party in the race for mayor.

Popular Party official Carlos Floriano agreed the results Sunday showed that new forces were changing the political scene.


Associated Press writer Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed to this report.


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