Spain's conservative People's Party (PP) has won the general election and boosted their seats in parliament. However, the party still came up short of a majority, failing to end the country's political deadlock.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative People's Party (PP) won the most seats in the parliamentary election on Sunday, exit polls showed.
The repeat parliamentary election aimed at breaking a six-month-long political stalemate, but the outcome looked to leave Spain's political landscape just as fractured as before.
PP was on track to win 137 seats compared to 123 seats last December, according to state broadcaster RTVE with over 90 percent of the votes counted.
Despite the gains, the results put the conservative party far short of the 176 seats needed for a majority in the 350-seat parliament.
The Socialists, a 137-year-old party, came in second place and are set to pick up 85 seats, down from 90 seats last year.
Unidos Podemos, an alliance of leftist parties led by Podemos, was predicted to pick up 71 seats. Earlier results initially suggested that Unidos Podemos had come in second place, which would have been signified an unprecedented shift in Spain, but official results put the coalition in third place.
"We had expected to do better," Podemos alliance head Pablo Iglesias said following the results.
Liberal upstart Ciudadanos, potentially a PP ally, was on course to win 32 seats, down from 40 in December.
Prime Minister Rajoy's conservative party must now strike a deal to avoid another election in six months' time
Rajoy demands 'right to govern'
Although PP has ruled for the past four years, the party has struggled to find support from rival parties. Sunday's inconclusive ballot now sends political leaders into another six months of negotiations on who should form a government.
Following the surge of support for Rajoy's center-right party, the prime minister declared he would make a push for power in the upcoming coalition talks.
"We won the election, we demand the right to govern," Rajoy told a victory rally in Madrid.
Spain, the European Union's fifth-largest economy, has yet to have a coalition government. Should the parties fail to agree, the country could see a third general election in six months' time.
The repeat parliamentary polls were called after coalition talks collapsed following December polls, which saw the traditional two-party conservative-socialist balance upset by the success of Podemos and Ciudadanos. The crowded and fractured post-election scene led to a six-month long political stalemate and Sunday's election.
Ahead of the Sunday vote, Rajoy - who has run an interim administration ever since December's poll - urged voters to reject "radicalism" and "populism."
Unidos Podemos 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.
The surge of support for PP, one of Spain's traditionally dominant parties, came just days after the Great Britain's vote to leave the European Union. Many PP supporters citted the party's "security" as a reason for voting conservative.
"I prefer the devil I know rather than the devil I don't know," voter Luis Fernandez said in Madrid.
rs/cw/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)