Polls have closed in Spain where the second election for parliament in six months is unlikely to lead to a majority. The center-right Popular Party is predicted to claim the most seats.
The repeat parliamentary election aims at breaking a six-month long political stalemate.
But, many political analysts predicted that even if the center-right Popular Party (PP) won the most votes again, it would not be enough to secure a parliamentary majority. PP, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, faces major competition from a newly-formed far-left bloc, Unidos Podemos.
The anti-austerity Podemos formed an alliance with the communist United Left last month. Together, the two far-left parties pushed ahead of the moderate socialist PSOE, in a country that is burdened by unemployment and government deadlock.
PSOE was traditionally the largest left-wing party in Spain, which until recently dominated the country's two-party political system, along with the PP.
Rajoy and the conservative PP won 29 percent of the vote at the previous ballot in December, after having won a parliamentary majority to run the country from 2011 to 2015. However, the 61-year-old leader failed to secure a coalition partner to allow his second term to proceed.
Moving away from bankruptcy
Ahead of the Sunday vote, Rajoy - who has run an interim administration ever since December's poll - urged voters to reject "radicalism" and "populism."
"If you want a united country and not a radical Spain, think about it, go for what is safe ... vote for the Popular Party," he tweeted earlier this week.
The leftist alliance blames the government for the country's 21 percent unemployment rate and points to a series of corruption scandals that have hit the ruling party.
Rajoy, however, counters that Spain has returned to growth since he was first elected, and that unemployment has fallen from its 27 percent peak in 2013.
"When I came to power, Spain was threatened with bankruptcy ... and now it isn't," he said earlier in June.
"They all say that they're going to fix things as if by magic, but that's also what [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras said in Greece," he added.
Back to the drawing board
A Metroscopia poll for the "El Pais" newspaper predicted that only 70 percent of voters would cast ballots, the second-lowest turnout in nearly 40 years.
This could favor Rajoy's Popular Party, whose supporters are traditionally less prone to abstaining.
With no party expected to win an absolute majority, political leaders will likely have to return to coalition talks.
dj/cw/mm/jlw (AFP, AP)