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Spanish voters just delivered an end to the two-party system

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Voters appeared to have decisively put an end to the two-party system in Spain on Sunday, as the country’s general election delivered a hung parliament and turned two upstart parties into potential kingmakers.

The two traditional parties—the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP)—had traded power smoothly between them for over three decades. This time, two new forces—the left-wing, anti-austerity Podemos and the more ideologically amorphous Ciudadanos—saw their votes skyrocket at the expense of the establishment. Each rode a wave of discontent over corruption and deep economic stagnation in Spain.

Podemos, which was only founded in early 2014 and had no seats in the Spanish parliament, defied predictions that its support was overstated. With nearly all the votes counted, Podemos was on track to gain 69 seats in the election, behind the PP and the PSOE. The PSOE saw its worst-ever electoral result. The PP came in first but fell well short of the 176-seat majority it needed to govern alone. Ciudadanos placed fourth.

It was not immediately clear what would happen next. None of the expected potential coalitions—such as the PP and Ciudadanos, or the PSOE and Podemos—appeared to have enough seats to form a majority. One possible outcome could be a “grand coalition” uniting the PP and the PSOE, the traditional left and right parties. Another could be a minority government consisting of the PSOE, Podemos and other smaller left parties.

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