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Inconclusive Spanish Elections Usher In Period Of Political Uncertainty

Spaniards went to the polls Sunday and upended the traditional two-party system, where the conservative Popular Party and more liberal Socialists dominated the political scene. The Popular Party won the most votes, as The New York Times reports, but fell far short of a majority, leaving it unclear whether the conservatives could pull together a coalition that would allow Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to remain in office.

As Lauren Frayer reported for NPR from Madrid:

"Until now, Spain has had a two-party political system, similar to that of the U.S. But these elections broke that, with four main parties vying for and winning power. Now politics here are likely to look like the rest of Europe with grand coalitions like Germany. Or relatively unstable short-term governments like Italy."

Spain is the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone. Its economy went through a double-dip recession in 2008-2013 and unemployment still tops 20 percent.

Roughly one-fifth of the seats in the new Parliament will be held by the anti-austerity Podemos Party, which was founded last year. Its leader, 37-year-old political science professor Pablo Iglesias, said at a news conference on Monday that his party would "extend a hand" to those willing to push through reforms, but he did not commit to supporting a particular leader.

Political uncertainty rattled Spanish markets, sending the Ibex-35 index of leading Spanish shares down more than 2 percent on Monday.

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