Newcomers anti-austerity Podemos and liberal Ciudadanos made big gains, coming third and fourth respectively, ending a decades-long two-party political system and ushering in a new and potentially volatile era of compromise politics.
Popular Party won 122 seats in the 350-seat assembly, the Socialists came in second with 92 seats and new anti-austerity party Podemos and its allies took 69 seats. New centre-right party Ciudadanos obtained 40 seats.
The results will produce a deeply fragmented parliament which will struggle to produce a stable government majority.
With 176 seats required for a majority, only an unlikely collaboration between the Popular Party and the Socialists — or a combination of more than two parties — would produce a stable alliance.
Days or weeks of negotiations may be needed to determine who will govern Spain, with the new far left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos parties producing shockwaves because of strong support from voters weary of the country’s political status quo.
In past elections, Popular Party and the main opposition Socialists were the established powerhouses and only needed support from tiny Spanish parties to get a majority in parliament when they didn’t win one from voters.