Credit Cristina Quicler/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s Socialists won Sunday’s election in Andalusia, the country’s largest region, but fell short of gaining a majority in a fragmented regional Parliament in which two upstart parties will have a combined quarter of the seats, according to preliminary results.
The Socialists were set to win 47 of the 109 seats in Andalusia’s regional Parliament, with 99 percent of the votes counted, ahead of the conservative Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which was on course to win 33 seats.
The result means that the Socialists will remain in charge of this region in the south, which they have controlled since 1982 and helped develop in part thanks to European funds received after Spain joined the European Union in 1986. Then the government in Madrid was headed by Felipe González, a Socialist prime minister from Andalusia.
The region’s vote was seen as a litmus test for whether upstart parties could uproot the bipartisan model of Spanish politics that has prevailed since Spain returned to democracy in the late 1970s. Spain’s busy voting year is set to culminate in general elections around November.
Mr. Rajoy’s governing Popular Party suffered a significant setback on Sunday, losing a third of the seats that it won in the previous election in Andalusia in 2012, according to the preliminary results.The Socialists entered the balloting with their party tainted by corruption scandals and a regional unemployment rate of 34 percent, 10 percentage points above the national average. But the Socialist regional leader, Susana Díaz, led a forceful campaign in which she transferred the blame for Andalusia’s economic problems onto Mr. Rajoy and the austerity cuts imposed by Madrid.
Even if Podemos did not manage to break the Socialist dominance of Andalusia, its result on Sunday suggests the party will be a strong challenger in forthcoming votes, starting with elections in most of Spain’s other regions in May.
The outcome in Andalusia sets the stage for a minority government forced to find allies within a highly polarized and fragmented Parliament — an outcome that could be repeated at the national level later this year.
During the campaign, Ms. Díaz insisted that the Socialists would not form alliances with the Popular Party or Podemos if the vote failed to produce a clear-cut winner. If she maintains that stance, that could help turn Ciudadanos into the pivotal party in Andalusia.
Ms. Díaz could also rely again on the United Left Party, which had previously formed a coalition with the Socialists. The United Left won five seats on Sunday, according to the preliminary results.
Ciudadanos initially gained prominence within Catalonia as a bulwark against parties pushing for the region to secede from the rest of Spain. Five months ago, however, Ciudadanos decided to take part in national elections, portraying itself as another reformist alternative to Spain’s established parties, but more centrist than Podemos, with a pro-business agenda comparable to that of other liberal European parties.