As people turn out to vote in today’s elections in Spain, only one thing is certain … and that’s how uncertain this ballot has turned out to be.
Opinion polls suggest the incumbent prime minister of the conservative People’s Party will scrape through, but without an absolute majority.
The long-established system where Mariano Rajoy’s party and the Socialists have alternated in government seems to be over, with four parties now vying for power.
Rajoy told supporters on Sunday: “I hope that everyone will vote freely and with enough knowledge of the issues at stake … and that everyone will choose what they think is best for our country.
“I’m told that many people are voting, which is comforting, and that there are no incidents worth mentioning.
A coalition might be on the cards, with the small newcomer parties, including the liberal Ciudadanos or Citizens party, shaking up the political landscape.
Albert Rivera, the leader of the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, told reporters on Sunday: “We will see a long electoral night. It will be tight and we will have to count each vote, seat by seat.
“Because we are in a situation in which not two but four parties are competing to win the election and to form a new parliament.”
Some polls suggested the Socialists would come in second place.
But experts warn the race is so unpredictable, with many voters deciding at the last minute.
Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday:
“We’re living a historic day. Spaniards know the future is not written and we’ll write it today with our vote.
“And that’s why I encourage everybody to have a good electoral day and, above all, I encourage everybody to vote on this historic day.”
The other party is the new anti-austerity movement Podemos, which could very well become the kingmaker in post-election talks.
But some fear political instability, with any marriage between the parties not likely to be easy.