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Parliamentary elections in Spain to get underway with new parties

Spain is going to the polls in parliamentary elections in a race that is still too close to call. For the first time in years, outside parties pose a serious challenge to the country's traditional two-party system.

Voting stations open at 9am local time (08.00 UTC) on Sunday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People's Party (PP) brace for a major fight.

For the first time since the era of dictator Francisco Franco came to an end and democracy was introduced, outside parties threaten to upend the country's two-party system.

Spanien Wahl Rajoy

Spain's conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy

The PP is running for a consecutive four-year term in office. However, the emergence of two new left-leaning parties - Podemos and Ciudadanos - is posing a major challenge.

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Albert Rivera, head of liberal party Ciudadanos

Ciudadanos ("Citizens") lies to the right of the Socialist Party (POSE) in Spain's political spectrum. Its polished leader, Albert Rivera, is known to be pro-business and socially liberal.

Spanien Wahl Iglesias

Pablo Iglesias burst onto the scene with Podemos in 2014

Podemos, the other party to burst onto the scene, was formed in 2014 and has gained popularity thanks to its aggresive anti-austerity platform.

Spanien Wahl Sanchez

Pedro Sanchez of the PSOE wants to redeem his party

Finally, there is the Socialist Part (PSOE), the PP's traditional rival. Pedro Sanchez, the PSOE's current leader, has a lot to prove after the party's humiliating defeat in 2011. The PSOE is widely expected to come in second place.

Watch video 02:36

Spain ahead of historic election

Polling stations close at 8pm local time (1900 UTC).

blc/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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