A new conservative government will take power in Spain after the center-right Popular Party beat the ruling Socialists by a landslide in Sunday’s parliamentary election.
With most of the votes counted, the Popular Party, led by incoming prime minister Mariano Rajoy, is projected to take 187 seats, a 33 seat gain.
The Socialists will control 110 seats, a big 59-seat drop.
Rajoy ran against Socialist candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero decided not to seek a third term because of low approval ratings.
Spain’s economic crisis dominated the election. The country is fighting to avoid slipping back into recession for the second time in two years. Unemployment is close to 22 percent, the highest in the European Union. Spain’s economic growth rate ground to a halt in the third quarter of the year after growing only a tiny 0.2 during the previous three months.
Voters blame the Socialists for failing to act swiftly to prevent the slide in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy. They are also angry over job and salary cuts.
Along with Italy, Spain is considered too big a country to bail out the way the European Union and the International Monetary Fund helped Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
Mr. Zapatero’s government liberalized the traditionally Roman Catholic country by introducing reforms such as gay marriage. But he is seen as having been slow to react to Spain’s financial crisis and the bursting housing bubble.