Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday called a snap national election for April 28, after losing a key budget vote.
“Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense,” Mr Sanchez said in a televised address to the nation following a cabinet meeting.
“I have proposed to dissolve parliament and call elections for April 28th.”
The elections will take place in an increasingly fragmented political landscape in Spain that has replaced three decades of two-party dominance, and with a spotlight once again on the divisive issue of Catalan independence.
Opinion polls in recent weeks have shown that no single party would win enough votes to rule on its own.
While the Socialists currently lead, polls show they and anti-austerity party Podemos would not win enough seats between them to govern, leaving open the question whether the Ciudadanos party would align with them or join a grouping of the Partido Popular (PP) and the far-right Vox party.
Mr Sanchez took office last June after the previous People’s Party government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – unpopular after years of anti-austerity programs and plagued by a corruption scandal – was ousted in a no-confidence vote. But the with less than a quarter of seats in parliament, the Socialists have relied on regional and smaller parties to govern.
Mr Sanchez was thrown against the ropes this week when Catalans who have previously supported his government deserted to help defeat the draft fiscal bill.
Weeks ago, October was the favoured election date for many in government circles, but officials have said it would now be a surprise if Mr Sanchez went for that given the budget defeat.
MAIN PHOTO: REUTERS/Juan Medina