Spain's conservatives face tough challenge from fresh anti-austerity parties as Spaniards vote

A man holds his ballots before voting in Spain's general election in Madrid, Spain, December 20, 2015. © Andrea Comas
The polls are now open in the Spanish elections, as voters head out to make the difficult choice of picking between parties that all claim to offer a solution to the country’s economic troubles. Experts are hesitating to make concrete predictions.

The campaigning finished Friday and the weekend has been very tense so far.

This time around, however, the two-party system of Socialists (PSOE) and People’s Party (PP) is under threat from Podemos, whose platform is entirely based on fighting EU-imposed austerity. The two heavyweights could also lose seats to the center-right Ciudadanos.

All offer a way out, and polls have reflected that, with at least 15 percent enjoyed by every contender regularly.

“We’re ready to lead a new transition in our country,” Podemos’ Pablo Iglesias told voters in Valencia, according to RUPTLY. “This is the moment in which all difficulties, all attempts to tackle us, make sense because we have reached the end of the campaign with a chance of winning, and we can feel the nervousness and tension among the representatives of the old structures."

Over in Madrid, on Friday, Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera told supporters he’s "convinced that these years of weariness, of corruption... are coming to an end," according to the AP.

Also striking out against conservative views of the People’s Party were the Socialists: “There’s only one color – the red of the Socialists – that will bring political change to Spain,” leader Petro Sanchez told voters in the capital.

The only voice standing against all of them, it seems, is Mariano Rajoy’s PP, who  in Valencia blasted the other parties for “playing around with experiments and novelties… something that a country like this one… cannot allow in any way.”

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But it is the prime minister’s PP and the oppositional PSOE that are forecast to get the lion’s share of the vote on Sunday, according to the latest poll by Spain’s Center for Sociological Research (CIS).

It predicts the PP to take up to 128 seats.

However, pollsters have found it difficult to make any predictions on how the other three parties will fair in the elections, as it’s too close of a call and all three enjoyed varying degrees of success in the recent past.

Polls also suggest, according to AFP, that Podemos may emerge as the front-runner for the left, despite a recent slump.

But Rajoy might try to create an alliance with Ciudadanos in order to prevent the leftists from dominating together as a force. Experts, however, differ on their views of a possible alliance.

Spain could be facing a number of possibilities for a coalition. Some analysts, according to the AP, believe that the Socialists could team up with Podemos. And if Rajoy doesn’t manage to team up with Ciudadanos for himself, the latter could also join Podemos and the Socialists to make a three-party alliance, some have said.

There is one question on which pretty much the whole of mainland Spain is united – and that is not letting go of the powerful and wealthy Catalonia. As regional leader Arturo Mas faces an uphill battle, the Spanish know that the region’s departure would cause a lot of damage to the already battered Spain.

The prime minister has been the leading force in making it very difficult for Mas to maneuver. The other parties predominantly favor negotiations with Barcelona.