Spain's "Indignados" have battered the ruling right-wingers and the second place centrists. Protest factions topped the vote in Barcelona and shattered the Popular Party's majority in Madrid.
Spain's Popular Party, which has swapped power with the Socialists for four decades since the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, suffered its worst result in over 20 years, heralding an uncertain era of coalitions. The PP took just 27 percent of Sunday's overall vote, which covered 8,100 town halls and 13 regional parliaments.
The centrist Socialists fared only slightly worse than the PP, taking a total of 25 percent. Turnout reached 49 percent of 35 million voters, the same as the 2011 local elections, when the PP snagged absolute majorities in almost half of the regional parliaments.
While counts early Monday put the PP top in 12 of the 13 Spanish regions that held local elections on Sunday, newcomers earned seats in almost all the regional governments, costing the ruling party its majorities in many places. PP won the most votes overall across the cities but saw its support plunge to 27 percent from 37 percent in 2011. The party also lost its majority in Valencia.
The dismal results were down to new political groups, spawned by the "Indignado" protest movement that took to the streets of Spain during the economic crisis in recent years.
Ahora Madrid, backed by the anti-austerity Podemos ("We Can"), could govern the capital, a longtime right-wing stronghold. With 32 percent, Ahora Madrid, led by the 71-year-old retired judge and grandmother Manuela Carmena, came in second Sunday to the PP's 35.5 percent, but the new faction could govern the city if it joins forces with the main opposition Socialists, who came third.
Podemos did not run its own candidates in the municipal elections but placed third in voting for several regional governments. Group leader Pablo Iglesias celebrated the successes on Sunday (pictured).
With 25 percent of the municipal vote, Barcelona En Comu gained just one more seat than its nearest competitors, a right-wing Catalan nationalist party, in that city council. The group's 41-year-old leader Ada Colau rose to prominence defending poor homeowners from eviction. She faces a tricky job forging a coalition among a mixture of small rival parties who could unite to block her.
Ideologically closest to the PP, Ciudadanos, or Citizens, won fourth place in Madrid and Barcelona. The fragmented vote could result in weeks of pact-building in the regions, which hold substantial decentralized power and determine spending in key areas like education and health.
Though Barcelona voted in municipal polls, Catalonia - like Andalucia, Galicia and the Basque Country - did not elect regional parliaments on Sunday.
mkg/ng (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)