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The Latest: Spain’s party leaders urge voters to go to polls
 


The Latest: Spain’s party leaders urge massive participation in election

The Latest on Spain’s election (all times local):

11:50 a.m.

Spain’s main political party leaders are calling on all citizens to vote Sunday as fears rose of a low turnout.

“Let nobody stay at home,” said Albert Rivera, of the third-ranked center-right Citizens party.

The call for voters to go to the polls was repeated by incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado, and far-left United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias.

Opinion polls suggest up to 35 percent of the 37-million strong electorate could stay away from the polling booths.

Officials said postal voting was down 27 percent to just under 1 million.

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11:00 a.m.

Spain’s United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias says he will leave behind all reproaches and offer a helping hand to the incumbent ruling Socialist party to form a stable leftist government.

Failure to reach agreement between the Socialists and United We Can, Spain’s fourth largest party in parliament, following the last election in April was one of the main reasons for the calling of Sunday’s vote, the fourth in as many years.

“We are going to offer a helping hand to the Socialist party. We think that combining the courage of United We Can and the experience of the Socialist party we can convert our country into a reference point for social policies,” Iglesias said Sunday.

“We are going to leave behind the reproaches,” he added.

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10:10 a.m.

Spain’s incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is one of the first party leaders to cast his vote as the country goes to the polls for the fourth time in as many years.

The election was called by Sánchez who won the most votes in the last ballot in April but failed to whip up enough parliamentary support to form a government.

Sánchez voted shortly after 9.30 a.m. (0830 GMT) in Pozuelo de Alarcon close to Madrid.

“I think it’s very important that we strengthen the democracy with our vote, encourage all citizens to vote and as of tomorrow we may have the stability to form a government and get Spain moving,” Sánchez said.

Sánchez is tipped to win again but Spain may face another stalemate situation.

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Spaniards were voting Sunday in the country’s fourth election in as many years with Catalonia’s secession drive and the predicted rise of a far-right party dominating the campaign.

The election was called by incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who won the most votes in the last ballot in April but failed to whip up enough parliamentary support to form a government.

Sánchez is tipped to win again but Spain may face another stalemate situation and months more without a stable government.

The four main parties contending centered their campaigns chiefly on ways to deal with Catalonia’s independence push and the feared surge of the far-right party Vox (Voice).

Abstentions loom, with polls suggesting up to 35 percent of the electorate could stay away from the polling booths, up from 28 percent in April.

Voting stations opened at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) and are set to close at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT), with results expected within hours.

Spain, a country which returned to democracy after a near four-decade right wing dictatorship under late Gen. Francisco Franco, used to take pride in claiming no far-right group had seats in the national parliament, unlike the rest of Europe.

But that changed in the last election when Vox erupted onto the political scene by winning 24 seats on promises of taking a hard line on Catalonia and immigration.

The Socialists’ April victory was nonetheless seen by many as something of a respite for Europe where right-wing parties had gained much ground in countries such as France, Hungary, Italy and Poland.

But many polls predict Vox, headed by Santiago Abascal, may do even better this time and capitalize on the pro-Spain nationalist sentiment stirred by the Catalan conflict and in response to the caretaker Socialist government’s exhumation of Franco’s remains last month from his gargantuan mausoleum so that he could no longer be exalted by supporters in a public place.

Vox has already joined forces with the other two right-of-center parties to take over many city and regional governments and no one doubts the three would readily band together to oust Sánchez.