MADRID – Spain's ruling Socialist Party has strengthened the government on Sunday in the nation's third national election since 2015 and shows nearly complete results showing increasing political polarization and fragmentation of parties.
The elections came after an abrupt change of government in June, when Pedro Sánchez and his Socialist Party used a corruption scandal to topple the conservative People's Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a parliamentary vote.
Late Sunday, reigning Prime Minister, Mr Sánchez, reaffirmed the victory, even though he had The party did not have an absolute majority in parliament and he will have to find coalition partners to form a government. The Socialists won 1
An anti-immigration and ultra-nationalist party, Vox, won its first seats in parliament, a significant shift in a country where it seemed long to be immune to the proliferation of right-wing extremist movements in Europe, partly due to the heritage of the San Francisco Franco dictatorship. However, with a 10% vote share, it was unable to become a kingmaker and help form a governing coalition.
Mr. Sánchez told the supporters that his socialist party had "sent a message to the world that it is possible to win against regression and authoritarianism."
[Three national elections in four years? Read more about Spain’s fragmenting politics here.]
The election results confirmed Mr. Sánchez as one of the great turn-around stories of Spanish politics.
Only two and a half years ago he was driven out of his own party leadership in an internal revolt. He eventually won re-election, and in June was the first Spanish politician to win office with a parliamentary vote of no confidence against the current government.
The last elections took place in a longstanding conflict in Catalonia. That was an important topic in the fight campaign. Right-wing politicians accused Mr Sánchez of betraying that he was trying to negotiate with separatist politicians in Catalonia. The talks did not go anywhere. The Social Democrats, on the other hand, warned that the emergence of Vox could help Spain return to the nationalism of the Franco dictatorship.
On Sunday voters turned out massively. That was around nine percentage points more than in the previous elections in 2016.
Under the high turnout, the main opposition, the People's Party, had the worst performance in its history, winning only half of the seats it received in 2016.
"I do not think it's possible to exaggerate the extent of this debacle," said Cristina Ares, a professor of politics at the University of Santiago de Compostela.
The defeat could contribute to Pablo Casado replacing Mr Rajoy as party leader shortly after Sánchez took office.
On Sunday, Mr. Casado blamed his party's "very bad" results for the fragmentation of the right-wing vote. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, said, however, that any blame should lie with the established right-wing parties.
Vox pledged not only to suppress the secessionist challenge in Catalonia, but also to decentralize Spain by withdrawing the powers of its regional governments. However, this platform could have decreased in order to help smaller national and regional parties to move from the northern region of Cantabria to the Basque Country on Sunday.
"Vox has tried to redefine the political game but we have seen it tonight too The reality in Spain is very diverse and regional," said Juan Rodríguez Teruel, professor of politics at the University of Valencia  José Luis Ábalos, Minister of Socialist Government of Sánchez, said Vox had shown on Sunday that it had "more bark than bite." He said that "Spain remembers the dictatorship but does not want to resort to it anymore." In Catalonia, Esquerra Republicana, an Independence Party, became for the first time the region's largest representative in the Spanish Parliament, having risen from nine to 15 seats in the last national elections, the leader of Esquerra, Oriol Junqueras, belongs to one Group of politicians held in jail during a trial and charged with a failed attempt to secede in 2017 Sánchez continued to rule with the support of the same parties who helped him to replace Mr Rajoy in June.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of left-wing Unidas Podemos, said he had called on Mr. Sánchez to congratulate him on his victory and offer to form a government with him. Although Podemos had lost voters on Sunday, Mr. Iglesias said his party had helped "to brake the right extreme brake".
Although Sánchez is expected to welcome the support of Unidas Podemos, he may elude an uncomfortable alliance with Catalan separatist parties, who also helped lower his budget in February, and forced him to make a quick choice convene.
Depending on the final collapse of parliamentary seats, the great unknown of whether Mr. Sánchez could instead try to revive negotiations with Ciudadanos, which became the third largest party in parliament on Sunday, almost doubled its seat.
Spain's Party system was dissolved in 2015, when Ciudadanos and left-wing extremist Podemos entered the parliament.  At that time, Ciudadanos was a centrist party and was about to form a coalition government with Mr Sánchez and his socialists. However, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera has been one of Mr Sánchez's most outspoken critics since June and has tilted his party further to the right, especially after the regional elections in December in Andalusia
The coalition negotiations could be lengthy, analysts said Mr Sánchez had won a clear victory that would allow him to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Spain spent almost a year in political limbo following two ambiguous elections as politicians argued over who should reg.
Mr. Sánchez has not won a majority, but "he now has the chance to look either right or left to form a coalition," said former Socialist Minister Jordi Sevilla.
He, he said, "we have to go back a long time to find a party that wins an election with twice the number of seats of its nearest rival."