After a four-month impasse filled with bitter bickering between the political parties, the Spanish King has dissolved parliament to pave the way for new elections scheduled for June 26. Martin Delfin reports from Madrid.
Following months of failures and squabbling by the country's political leaders to form coalitions and seek support among themselves, Spaniards will once again have to go to the polls to try to pick a prime minister and a new government
However, recent surveys show that the June results may not change the political scenario and the parties will have to restart negotiations.
Spain has been without a government since last December. The results of the December 20 general elections may have been inconclusive, but two emerging parties broke the two-party tradition for the first time by successfully campaigning against years of rampant corruption and harsh austerity measures introduced by now interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party (PP).
The only serious attempt to try to form a government was made by Socialist Secretary-General Pedro Sánchez who signed a political agreement with the centrist Ciudadanos and tried to convince the leftist Podemos to join in. But the talks were doomed from the start when Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias made a series of demands, including taking over 15 ministries and reserving the deputy prime minister's post for himself.
Podemos also wanted the Socialists to break its relationship with Ciudadanos and form a grand leftist coalition.
He tried, but failed to form a government - and it's unlikely to get any better after the next election
"The left is very fragmented in Spain - it is all more about personalities than it is about people," Pablo Simón Cosano, political science professor at University of Carlos III in Madrid, told DW. "In other countries, that fragmentation isn't so severe."
There are also hunches in some sectors about voter abstention, which could help boost Podemos and Ciudadanos - both parties will continue to provide serious challenges to the PP and the center-left Socialists in June.
Lluis Orriols Galve, also a political science professor at the University of Carlos III, predicts that there will be less "participation which may hurt the larger parties."
"There is also going to be a lot of blaming [among leaders] as why the parties couldn't get together in the first place, which will also complicate things," Orriols told DW.
Several people polled by DW in recent days have said they don't plan on voting.
"The politicians have demonstrated over the past few months that they are not serious. They still prefer to put their own egos, their own interests over Spaniards," said 72-year-old pensioner Marcos Garcia-Abelo as he sipped a coffee.
"Why waste my time?" asked Yolanda Berrios, a 43-year-old housewife who says she usually votes for the PP. "If the polls show that nothing is going to change, then I think my vote will make little difference. I also have friends who plan to boycott the elections."
In a pickle
A string of high-profile corruption cases since the elections has also put the PP in a jam. The government's Industry and Tourism Minister José María Soria was forced to resigned recently when his name was linked to an offshore account in the Panama Papers scandal. And the former mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá, a powerful PP powerbroker in her city for two decades, is under court investigation for allegedly heading up an illegal party financing scheme.
Still, polls released by two major Spanish newspapers and a television station over the weekend predict that the PP will win the June 26 elections with 28-29 percent of the vote - similar to the 28.7 percent it garnered last December. The Socialists, who managed 22 percent last time round, would get between 19 and 22 percent.
The surveys differ on whether Podemos would overtake the Socialists as the second-largest political party if it decides to join forces with Spain's United Left (IU) party and run as a coalition. The two parties are in talks about running as a team.
But as the finger-pointing continues among party leaders over who is to blame for the impasse, Spaniards appear less concerned about not having a government at this stage than they are about other issues.
The country's 23-percent unemployment rate and public corruption top the list of Spaniards' concerns and rank way above Spain's inability to form a government, according to the government-funded Center for Sociological Research (CIS), which gauges Spanish public opinion on current issues every month.
Cosano and Orriols Galve both agree that the four-month impasse hasn't affected Spaniards much because Spain's 2016 budget was passed weeks before the December 20 elections and "will keep the government running."