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As Spanish voters return to polls, here is what’s shaping the election

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People pick up ballots as they prepare to vote during general election in Madrid, Spain, November 10, 2019.
People pick up ballots as they prepare to vote during general election in Madrid, Spain, November 10, 2019. -
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REUTERS/Jon Nazca
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Voting is underway in Spain as the southern European country holds its second parliamentary election in just over six months this Sunday.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist Party won the most seats last April but over months of negotiations has been unable to form a coalition government.

Opinion polls show the Socialists in the lead but likely to win slightly fewer seats than in April's vote, while the conservative People's Party (PP) could gain strength and the far-right Vox could become the country's third-largest party.

If Sanchez falls well short of a majority, he will need to strike deals in order to stay in power.

Turnout stood at 38.8% at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT), according to the interior ministry, a drop from the 41.5% recorded at the same time during the previous election in April.

Here are some of the key issues shaping the vote as the country attempts to break the political stalemate.

READ MORE: Last Spanish polls before election suggest gridlock could continue

Catalonia

The challenge over Catalonia's independence has become a focal point of this vote, with street clashes, burning cars, and smashed windows all serving to fuel a hardening stance against separatists among political parties.

One consequence is that it could be very difficult to form a government if no outright winner comes through — as is widely expected.

Sanchez's tougher stance on Catalonia from the last few days will make a left-wing government alliance more complicated as potential ally Unidas Podemos sees opening a dialogue with the separatists as the only solution.

And clinching support from the Catalan separatist parliamentarians may be harder now than before.

Voter apathy

With four elections in the last four years, this election campaign of only eight days has been the shortest in history. The turnout is expected to drop considerably on Sunday.

Rise of the far-right

After the Barcelona riots, the last polls saw Vox go up to a third position, outperforming the liberals of Citizens and Unidas Podemos. It is projected to win 40-49 seats, possibly doubling its presence in parliament.

Vox "understands the values of all good Spanish people", Barcelona resident Juan Ignacio Izquierdo said at a party rally in the city. "Catalonia is Spain and the line is unbreakable."

As for the more moderate right, the People's Party has scored better than before but the centre-right Ciudadanos is collapsing due to internal fighting.

Polls predict that the elections will not hand the right-wing bloc a majority even though no possibility can be ruled out as the number of undecided voters remains high.

Low levels of support for Más País

The new leftist party Más País could not get the required number of votes to enter Congress, according to the latest polls, even if it got a lot of media coverage in Spain.

All parties are well aware that voters do not want a fifth election, and they might have to strike a deal in the end.

READ MORE: Can Spain end political stalemate with fourth election in four years?

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