MADRID, 23/07/2023.- Spanish Prime Minister and re-election candidate, Pedro Sanchez (C), talks to media after he cast his ballot for the general elections at a polling station in Madrid, Spain, 23 July 2023. EFE/Ballesteros

Spain PM calls for ‘historic’ turnout as PP leader urges nation to ‘decide’

Madrid, Jul 23 (EFE).- Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez urged voters to turn out in “historic” numbers as polling stations opened across the country on Sunday.

Spanish voters face a choice between a progressive bloc led by Sánchez’s Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which has led a left-wing governing coalition for the past four years, and the conservative People’s Party (PP), which, along with the far-right Vox, stunned left-wing parties in local elections held in May.

After casting his ballot at a polling center in the capital Madrid with his wife Begoña Gómez, Sánchez said he hoped for “the highest turnout” and “the greatest of mobilizations” to polling stations for a “historic” election to allow the government that emerges to have a “strong” mandate and move the country forward during the next four years.

The prime minister thanked state postal workers who have helped process the largest number of mailed-in ballots in the country’s history, as well as polling station workers and members of the security forces ahead of Sunday’s election day, which he said was “very important” both for Spain and for Europe.

“All of you make it possible for Spain to show the world what we are – an impeccable democracy,” Sanchez said, while highlighting the international attention being paid to the vote.

“That should also make us reflect and go to vote,” he added.

Polling stations will be open until 8pm local time, with a total of 37.469 million voters eligible, including 2.3 million who live abroad. Some 1.64 million young people will be able to vote for the first time.

PP president Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Vox leader Santiago Abascal and Yolanda Díaz, who helms Sumar, a party which unites left-wing and far-left groups, all also cast their ballots in Madrid on Sunday morning.

“It is clear that we have a lot at stake,” Feijóo said as he submitted his vote. “The model we want for our country is at stake. Having a solid, strong government is at stake. And it is necessary for Spain to speak up and decide.”

As the election is being held with millions of Spaniards on their summer holidays, more than 2.47 million people are voting by mail, according to the state postal service, Correos.

If neither the PP or the PSOE secure enough votes for an absolute majority – the likeliest outcome, according to pre-election surveys – they will have to try to form a coalition with a more extreme junior partner.

For the PP, that would mean entering into an alliance with the far-right nationalist Vox, while the PSOE will have to make a deal with Sumar, the successor to Unidas Podemos. EFE