Spain's Prime Minister Must Build A Coalition To Stay In Power Spain's lackluster prime minister suffered a setback at the polls over the weekend. His party won the most votes in Sunday's elections, but fell short of a majority.
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Spain's Prime Minister Must Build A Coalition To Stay In Power

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Spain's Prime Minister Must Build A Coalition To Stay In Power

Spain's Prime Minister Must Build A Coalition To Stay In Power

Spain's Prime Minister Must Build A Coalition To Stay In Power

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/460536802/460536803" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Spain's lackluster prime minister suffered a setback at the polls over the weekend. His party won the most votes in Sunday's elections, but fell short of a majority.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, so does winning the most votes mean victory? Maybe not in the Spanish elections held yesterday. The ruling conservatives technically won, but the prime minister's party fell short of a majority and now has to build a coalition to stay in power. And given the prime minister's low personal approval ratings, that could be difficult as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: The conservative party headquarters were decked out for a victory party with a balcony draped in a giant gracias sign. But when Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stepped out on that balcony after midnight, he looked more spooked than thankful. His party won the most votes but lost about a third of its seats in Congress in its worst showing in decades.

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SPAIN MARIANO RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "Friends, I will try to form a government. Spain needs stability," said the conservative incumbent, but many doubt the country will get that under him.

FEDERICO SANTI: Well, he has to say that in a way, right?

FRAYER: Federico Santi is a Europe analyst at the Eurasia Group think tank in London.

SANTI: I mean, they did win the election. They're going to go to Parliament and ask for support from the other parties, and they're probably not going to get it (laughter). That's quite clear.

FRAYER: He says Rajoy's personal approval rating, the lowest of any Spanish politician in modern history, makes him vulnerable to being ousted by a so-called coalition of losers. That's when the second and third place parties band together. That very scenario happened this fall in neighboring Portugal. In Spain, the horse trading could take up to two months.

FRAYER: Meanwhile, as Rajoy was looking uncomfortable on that balcony, a real fiesta was getting underway across town. At a post-election gathering of the insurgent leftist party, Podemos.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Si se puede. Yes, we can, yelled party leader Pablo Iglesias and his supporters. Iglesias, a 37-year-old political science professor with a ponytail, won almost as much as the popular vote as each of the two traditional parties, the conservatives and the socialists. Those parties have been the standard, right and left, since democracy took hold here in the late 1970s. Podemos is barely two years old. It's likely to be key player in any coalition.

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PABLO IGLESIAS: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Iglesias told supporters that this election has transformed Spain.

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IGLESIAS: Today is an historical day for Spain. The two- party system is ended, and we are happy because we are starting a new political era in our country.

FRAYER: Among the Podemos lawmakers heading to Parliament are a quantum physicist who uses a wheelchair - he has a muscular disorder - and Spain's first-ever black MP Rita Bosaho, a Spanish nurse born in Equatorial Guinea in Africa.

MP RITA BASAHO: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "It's exciting," she told reporters after voting yesterday. "And it's about time, isn't it?" she said.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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