Spain votes as Catalonia tensions mount

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Spain's far-right Vox party more than doubled its number of lawmakers in the country's fourth national election in four years, which delivered a deeply fragmented parliament, setting the stage for very hard government negotiations. Party leader Santiago Abascal said Vox's success was "the greatest political feat seen in Spain".

The "centre-right" People's Party which led the country before Sanchez and the Socialists made some modest gains after a historically poor result earlier in 2019, while the europhile Ciudadanos (Citizens) party - which the mainstream media often describes as centre-right, even though it describes itself as "post-nationalist" - has collapsed to less than 7 per cent of the vote.

The European Parliament should decide whether a jailed pro-independence Catalan leader elected as an MEP should qualify for immunity from criminal charges in Spain, a senior adviser to the EU's top court said on Tuesday.

This assessment might not change the situation of Junqueras, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over his role in the region's 2017 failed bid for independence.

The next step will be for parliamentarians to select a house speaker in the coming weeks and for talks then between King Felipe VI and party leaders to begin so that one of them, most likely Sánchez, will be called on to try to form a government.

Sánchez's chances of staying in power still hinges on ultimately winning over the United We Can party and several regional parties, a complicated maneuver that he has failed to pull off in recent months.

"My hypothesis is it will be practically impossible to form a government in Spain".

"These elections have only served for the right to grow stronger and for Spain to have one of the strongest far-right parties in Europe", Iglesias said.

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"Spain needs a progressive government that puts the brakes on the far-right and a government that puts the brakes on the extremists also here in Catalonia, who are the separatists", he said during his final campaign rally in Barcelona on Friday.

The big political shift came as right-wing voters flocked to Vox, which only had broken into Parliament in the spring for the first time.

The Socialist leader, who had called the vote to strengthen his hand, ended up losing three seats in a poll that weakened his potential allies and strengthened the right. That means Spain may face another political stalemate and months more without a stable government.

The 84-year-old did not want to say which party got his vote at a polling station in Madrid's northern Hortaleza neighbourhood where Abascal lives.

Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, an analyst and head of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the Catalan separatists helped give rise to Vox.

It's won 88 seats. The ruling has triggered massive daily protests in Catalonia that left more than 500 people injured, roughly half of them police officers, and dozens arrested.

Senior PP official Teodoro Garcia Egea told Onda Cero radio on Monday that Sanchez had not asked his party to do so.

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