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Spanish conservatives digest defeat in Andalusia, Socialists top polling

Spain's opposition Socialists, who top-polled in Andalusia on Sunday, now face a choice between two upstart parties to form the recession-hit region's next government. Voters punished the conservative Popular Party.

Electoral prospects looked grim on Monday for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party conservatives after the party's support in Andalusia fell to 26.7 percent on Sunday, ahead of more elections due later this year .

That was a third less than its previous returns in 2012 and left it with 33 seats in Andalusia's regional assembly. Sunday's poll followed

corruption probes against Rajoy allies.

The Socialist Party, in power in Andalusia since 1982 and led by its regional president Susana Diaz (pictured above), topped Sunday's poll with 35.4 percent to retain 47 of the 109 seats in the southern region's assembly.

Diaz has two potential coalition partners - the upstart anti-austerity party Podemos, which means We Can, with 15 seats, and the new conservative Ciudadanos or Citizens party, with 9 seats.

Key test

Sunday's vote in Spain's southern region of 6.5 million voters, characterized by farming, tourist beaches and ruinous real estate projects of recent years, was seen as a key test of Spain's bid to emerge from recession and high unemployment.

Podemos, which has led recent national surveys, claimed that Sunday's Andalusia vote had weakened Spain's long-standing "bipartisanship" between the two main parties by trimming support for them to 60 percent, down from 80 percent.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said in a social network message that Andalusia voters had taken the "first step" on its platform to challenge anti-austerity moves. The party was formed last year, inspired by Syriza in Greece.

Ciudadanos started as a Catalan anti-independence party and campaigned for the first time in Andalusia, where unemployment is among the highest in Europe at 34 percent.

Spain holds nationwide municipal elections in May. A general election is to be held later this year.

ipj/lw (dpa, AFP)

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