Regional elections held in two northern Spanish regions on Sunday yielded predictable outcomes, reflecting the problems in breaking a nine-month deadlock in national politics.
The conservative Popular Party (PP) reaffirmed its hold on Galicia, where the incumbent premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo won a third term in office with an absolute majority of 41 seats in the regional parliament, representing over 48% of all votes.
The Basque Socialists performed very poorly in absolute terms
The leftist En Marea coalition, which includes the anti-austerity Podemos, secured the same number of seats (14) as the Galician Socialists, but mathematically attracted 16,000 votes more than them.
And in the Basque Country, which follows its own political dynamics, voters gave a re-election victory to Iñigo Urkullu, whose moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) secured 29 seats. But Urkullu will need to find allies, and will turn to the Socialists for support.
This is the only good news for the Basque Socialists, who performed very poorly in absolute terms, managing no more than nine seats, seven fewer than in 2012. They were easily outdone by the left-wing nationalists of EH Bildu (17 seats) and by Podemos (11). The PP earned nine seats.
Overall, the Socialist Party (PSOE) has lost significant ground in both regions, further eroding the figure of party leader Pedro Sánchez as he wages an internal battle over national strategy.
The PP, for its part, appears unaffected by the string of corruption probes affecting the party, the latest involving former mayor of Valencia Rita Barberá.
While the PP traditionally does poorly in the Basque Country, its resounding victory in Galicia and the fact that the PSOE tanked in both regions is good news for Spanish acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
For the last nine months, the interim PM has been insisting on the need for the Socialists to let the PP form a national government, either by actively voting for him or at least abstaining at the investiture vote to find a new prime minister.
So far, Sánchez has refused to do so, but this attitude is now being questioned by several leading party figures who say it is better to be in the opposition than trying to cobble together an alternative government with Podemos and regional separatists.
If no progress is made soon, Spaniards will have to go to the polls for a third consecutive time, currently scheduled for December 25.
English version by Susana Urra.