Refugee boat sinks off Spanish coast, 1 dead

            By Senhan Bolelli</p>  <p>MADRID (AA) - A boat carrying 24 irregular migrants sank off the southern coast of Spain on Wednesday, security officials said.

Twenty-two migrants were rescued alive but a woman died and a child has gone missing after a wave capsized the boat near the coast of Cadiz city, said Guardia Civil in a statement.

Search and rescue operations are being carried out from land, sea and air to find the missing child.

In 2018, more than 58,500 irregular migrants arrived in Spain, a figure authorities predict could rise this year.

Some 395 irregular migrants reached to the southern shores of the country between May 3 and 5.

* Writing by Beyza Binnur Donmez

EU unemployment rate at 6.5% in March

                By Muhammed Ali Gurtas</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Unemployment in the EU stood at 6.4% in March, the bloc's statistical office announced Tuesday. </p>    <p>Eurostat said the figure fell from 6.5% in the previous month, and dropped from 7% in the same month last year.</p>    <p>&quot;The euro area (EA19) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 7.7% in March 2019, down from 7.8% in February 2019 and from 8.5% in March 2018,&quot; the statistical office said.</p>    <p>The eurozone/euro area or EA19 represents member states that use the single currency -- euro -- while the EU28 includes all member countries of the bloc.</p>    <p>&quot;Eurostat estimates that 15.9 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 12.6 million in the euro area, were unemployed in March 2019,&quot; it said.</p>    <p>The number of people unemployed across the 28-member bloc fell by 172,000 month-on-month, and decreased by 1.43 million on a yearly basis.</p>    <p>March's lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Czech Republic with 1.9% and in Germany with 3.2%.</p>    <p>The highest figures were seen in Greece (18.5% in January 2019, the latest available figures), Spain (14%), and Italy with 10.2%.</p>    <p>Eurostat also said there were 3.28 million unemployed young people -- under 25 -- in the EU28 as of March, with a 14.5% youth unemployment rate. </p>    <p>The highest youth unemployment figures were observed in Greece, Spain, and Italy, and the lowest in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.

Socialists win Spanish elections without majority

By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spain’s incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won the parliamentary elections Sunday without securing majority to form a government.
With 99 percent of the ballots counted, unofficial results show the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) won 123 seats in the 350-seat parliament while their former coalition partner, far-left Unidas Podemos, won 42 seats.
This time, Sanchez would have sought support from other parties to form a government as the total seats of PSOE and Podemos still 11 seats short to reach the necessary 176 for a majority.
In his victory speech, Sanchez said: “We have sent a clear message to Europe and the world – that you can beat authoritarianism and involution.”
Far-right party Vox won 24 seats receiving over 10 percent of the votes. This is the first time a far-right party entered the parliament since the military rule ended in the mid-1970s.
Spain’s traditional party on the right, the Popular Party registered historically low results, with representation in the parliament dropped to 66.
Sanchez will likely start negotiations with both Podemos and regional parties from the Basque Country, Valencia, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Navarra and Cantabria, whose support would all be needed to form a government.
Alternatively, Sanchez could enter into discussions with separatist parties from Catalonia, which won over 20 seats, but those negotiations could be trickier for Sanchez and unpopular with his base.
The Socialist leader could also form a simpler coalition with the center-right party Ciudadanos, which saw spectacular gains in Sunday’s vote, winning 57 seats.
However, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera repeatedly stated during the election campaign that his party wouldn’t align with the Socialists due to their relatively softer stance on Catalan separatism.
Likewise, during Sanchez’s victory speech his supporters chanted “not with Rivera.”
If Sanchez’s negotiations are unsuccessful, the political fragmentation could send Spaniards back to the national polls for the fourth time since 2015.
Voter turnout reached nearly 76% according to Spain’s Interior Ministry, nine percentage points higher than in 2016.

UPDATE: Spain: Polls suggest Socialists win elections

UPDATES WITH 76% COUNTED VOTES, CHANGES DECK, LEDE, EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – With nearly 76% of votes counted, the Socialist Party led by Spain’s incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is set to win the national elections in Spain.

With an estimated 123 seats, the left-wing party seems to nearly double that of the Popular Party, which won elections in 2015 and 2016.

However, the early results indicate that the Spanish Parliament will remain fragmented.

176 seats are needed to gain a majority in the Spanish Parliament. A left-wing coalition seems like an increasing possibility, but joining the far-left Unidas Podemos will still fall short for a majority.

It appears that the left-wing bloc will need to join forces or win support from separatist parties to form a government.

The ultranationalist Vox party has also become the first far-right party to gain significant political representation in Spain’s Parliament since the death of Spain’s fascist dictator Fransisco Franco. Results suggest it will gain 24 seats.

This is Spain’s 3rd national elections in four years. The political fragmentation in the country, which had been dominated by two parties prior to 2015, has led to political instability.

Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting that voter turnout reached 75.4% – the highest level since 2004.

CORRECTS – Polls open in Spanish national elections

Corrects 7 p.m. GMT to 6 p.m. GMT as the hour polls close

By Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA)- Voting has begun throughout Spain, where voters have been called to the polls yet again to break the ongoing political deadlock.

These are the third national elections since 2015 and surveys found that around 40 percent of voters had still not made up their mind in the week before elections.

Though results are highly unpredictable, the polls put the incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in the lead, closely followed by the conservative Popular Party, the center-right wing party Ciudadanos (Citizens), the far-left party Podemos and then the populist far-right party Vox.

Smaller parties and parties from regions including Catalonia and the Basque Country are also in the running.

While Citizens and Podemos burst onto the national scene in 2015 in response to corruption and frustration with the traditional parties, this is the first year that a far-right party is expected to win significant political representation in Spain’s Parliament since it became a democracy.

The far-right party is skeptical of non-Hispanic immigration to the country, vows to repeal the Gender Violence Act while also giving rapists life imprisonment, and borrows liberally from the rhetoric of other populist politicians such as Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán and Marine Le Pen.

Vox also claims to take a harder line position on the Catalan separatist movement than Spain’s other political parties. At Vox rallies, a common chant is related to locking up Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan separatist leader who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

While polls suggest that Vox had won over the hearts of just 11 percent of the Spanish electorate, depending on how the results come in, the party could be in a position to form or back a right-wing coalition.

Spain’s current PM Pedro Sanchez, who called the snap elections after failing to pass the 2019 budget, hopes, however, that his Socialists will gain more representation in the Parliament and be able to form a left-wing governing coalition.

“A lot is at stake. If we want Spain to look to the future and not go back 40 years with the three parties on the right, we should concentrate our votes in the only party that can stop them: the Socialist Party,” he tweeted on Friday, the last day of the campaign.

Polls close at 8 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) and results are expected to come in late Sunday night.

Polls open in Spanish national elections

Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA)- Voting has begun throughout Spain, where voters have been called to the polls yet again to break the ongoing political deadlock.

These are the third national elections since 2015 and surveys found that around 40 percent of voters had still not made up their mind in the week before elections.

Though results are highly unpredictable, the polls put the incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in the lead, closely followed by the conservative Popular Party, the center-right wing party Ciudadanos (Citizens), the far-left party Podemos and then the populist far-right party Vox.

Smaller parties and parties from regions including Catalonia and the Basque Country are also in the running.

While Citizens and Podemos burst onto the national scene in 2015 in response to corruption and frustration with the traditional parties, this is the first year that a far-right party is expected to win significant political representation in Spain’s Parliament since it became a democracy.

The far-right party is skeptical of non-Hispanic immigration to the country, vows to repeal the Gender Violence Act while also giving rapists life imprisonment, and borrows liberally from the rhetoric of other populist politicians such as Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán and Marine Le Pen.

Vox also claims to take a harder line position on the Catalan separatist movement than Spain’s other political parties. At Vox rallies, a common chant is related to locking up Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan separatist leader who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

While polls suggest that Vox had won over the hearts of just 11 percent of the Spanish electorate, depending on how the results come in, the party could be in a position to form or back a right-wing coalition.

Spain’s current PM Pedro Sanchez, who called the snap elections after failing to pass the 2019 budget, hopes, however, that his Socialists will gain more representation in the Parliament and be able to form a left-wing governing coalition.

“A lot is at stake. If we want Spain to look to the future and not go back 40 years with the three parties on the right, we should concentrate our votes in the only party that can stop them: the Socialist Party,” he tweeted on Friday, the last day of the campaign.

Polls close at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. GMT) and results are expected to come in late Sunday night.

Spanish elections marked by rise of far right

By Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA) – On Sunday, Spain is holding its third national election in four years. These polls are marked by indecision and the rise of the far right.

The last polls published suggest that around 40% of the electorate was undecided just a week before the national vote.

Since 2015, when Spain’s predominately two-party political system came to an end, the country has had major difficulties forming a government.

In the 2015 elections, two new parties broke onto Spain’s political landscape – the far left Podemos party and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party. Prior to that, Spanish politics had been dominated by the Popular Party and the Socialist Party. However, issues including corruption, the economic crisis and the growing Catalan separatist movement gave rise to the new political parties.

Their entry into Spanish politics resulted in a Parliament so fragmented that politicians were unable to elect a government. As a result of the political deadlock, national elections were triggered again in 2016.

In 2016, the results of the national election were similarly inconclusive. However, after nearly 10 months with only a caretaker government, Spain’s parliament managed to elect the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, as the governing party.

Yet, with support from less than half of the Spanish Parliament, the government was toppled in 2018 by a motion of no confidence tabled by the Socialist Party. That is when Pedro Sanchez, the current front runner for Sunday’s elections, became Spain’s Prime Minister.

While Sanchez was able to pass some legislation including a 22% hike in the minimum wage, he was unable to pass the 2019 budget and called another round of national elections in the hopes of improving Spain’s governability.

Although the latest polls show the largest voting bloc is undecided, they suggest that the Socialist Party is in the lead, followed by the conservative Popular Party, Citizens, Podemos and Vox.

Vox is the new addition to Spain’s already fragmented political scene. It is the first far-right party to gain significant political traction since the death of the country’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and is expected to win its first seats in the national parliament on Sunday.

Last December, Vox exceeded expectations and won 12 seats in Andalusia’s regional elections. The latest polls suggest that the party has gone from having virtually no support on the national level to around 11% of popular support.

Vox’s campaign has been marked by a hard-line position on Catalan separatism, which reached a boiling point in 2017 when an illegal referendum was held on the question of independence. Spanish police cracked down on the vote but the region’s separatist politicians subsequently declared independence.

As a result, the Spanish central government assumed political control of Catalonia and laid charges against the separatist politicians.

Today, several Catalan politicians are in preventative prison while their trials for charges including treason are ongoing, or in self-imposed exile in other European nations.

But for Vox, the Spanish government’s reaction to Catalan separatism was not firm enough.

“We will not permit Spain to commit suicide,” said Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal during its massive final rally in Madrid on Friday night.

Besides Spanish unity, Vox has campaigned on a populist platform that rejects some forms of immigration and feminism. Abascal has made the media and progressive left his enemies and has drawn heavily on the symbolism of the Spanish Reconquista, which was when Christians regained control of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslims in the fifteenth century.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, has become a consultant for Vox, and the party seems to be taking many of the same pages from the U.S. President’s playbook. Vox’s rallies are explosive, attracting thousands of people, and the party is playing on the fear, frustration and resentment of patriotic Spaniards who feel neglected by traditional party politics.

“This is the first party that is telling it as it is, not speaking in half-truths and fighting for Spain,” Santiago, 25, told the Anadolu Agency after the Vox rally on Friday.

While Vox is unlikely to become the dominant political force after Sunday’s, it could be placed in a kingmaker position and has caused increasing polarization between Spain’s left and right.

While the results of Spain’s elections on Sunday are impossible to predict, the most likely possibilities are a left-wing coalition, which may have to resort to the controversial support of regional nationalist parties or a right-wing coalition backed by Vox.

Another likely outcome is that no obvious coalitions exist and Spain’s Parliament again goes months without a functioning government. That scenario could cause voters to return to the polls in national elections long before the government’s four-year term is up.

Football: Barcelona win La Liga title for 26th time

By Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – Barcelona clinched this season's Spanish La Liga title over Saturday's 1-0 win against Levante on Friday night.

With three matches to spare in the Spanish league, Barcelona won their 26th league title in the club history following the victory at Nou Camp, Barca's home ground.

The club's Argentine superstar Lionel Messi came off the bench and netted the only goal of the game in the 61st minute.

League leaders Barca secured the 9 point gap against Atletico Madrid, who are currently in the second spot in the Spanish league standings.

After the match, Barcelona players celebrated their domestic triumph as team captain Messi lifted the cup.

In the last 11 years, Barcelona dominated La Liga, winning 8 league titles.

In this period, the Spanish football powerhouse won La Liga campaign in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and lastly 2019.

Spanish elections marked by rise of far right

by Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA) – Spain will hold its third general elections in four years on Sunday amid an atmosphere of indecision and rise of the far right.

Polls suggest that around 40% of the electorate was undecided just a week before the national vote.

Since 2015, when Spain’s predominantly two-party political system came to an end, the country has had major difficulties forming a government.

In the 2015 elections, two new parties broke onto Spain’s political landscape – the far left Podemos party and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party. Prior to that, Spanish politics had been dominated by the Popular Party and the Socialist Party. However, issues including corruption, the economic crisis and the growing Catalan separatist movement gave rise to the new political parties.

Their entry into Spanish politics resulted in a Parliament so fragmented that politicians were unable to elect a government. As a result of the political deadlock, general elections were held in 2016.

In 2016, the results of the national election were similarly inconclusive. However, after nearly 10 months with only a caretaker government, Spain’s parliament managed to elect the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, as the governing party.

Yet, with support from less than half of the Spanish Parliament, the government was toppled in 2018 by a motion of no confidence submitted by the Socialist Party. That is when Pedro Sanchez, the current frontrunner for Sunday’s elections, became Spain’s prime minister.

While Sanchez was able to pass some legislation including a 22% hike in minimum wage, he was unable to pass the 2019 budget and called another round of national elections in the hopes of improving Spain’s governability.

Although the latest polls show the largest voting bloc is undecided, they suggest that the Socialist Party is in the lead, followed by the conservative Popular Party, Citizens, Podemos and Vox.

  • Far-right party makes inroads

Vox is the new addition to Spain’s already fragmented political scene. It is the first far-right party to gain significant political traction since the death of the country’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and is expected to win its first seats in the national parliament on Sunday.

Last December, Vox exceeded expectations and won 12 seats in Andalusia’s regional elections. The latest polls suggest that the party has gone from having virtually no support on the national level to around 11% of popular support. .

Vox’s campaign has been marked by a hard-line position on Catalan separatism, which reached a boiling point in 2017 when a referendum was held on the question of independence. Spanish police cracked down on the vote but the region’s separatist politicians subsequently declared independence.

As a result, the Spanish central government assumed political control of Catalonia and laid charges against the separatist politicians.

Today, several Catalan politicians are in preventative prison while their trials for charges including treason are ongoing, or in self-imposed exile in other European nations.

But for Vox, the Spanish government’s reaction to Catalan separatism was not firm enough.

“We will not permit Spain to commit suicide,” said Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal during its massive final rally in Madrid on Friday night.

Besides Spanish unity, Vox has campaigned on a populist platform that rejects some forms of immigration and feminism. Abascal has made the media and progressive left his enemies and has drawn heavily on the symbolism of the Spanish Reconquista, which was when Christians regained control of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslims in the fifteenth century.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, has become a consultant for Vox, and the party seems to be taking many of the same pages from the U.S. president’s playbook. Vox’s rallies are explosive, attracting thousands of people, and the party is playing on the fear, frustration and resentment of patriotic Spaniards who feel neglected by traditional party politics.

“This is the first party that is telling it as it is, not speaking in half-truths and fighting for Spain,” Santiago, 25, told Anadolu Agency after the Vox rally on Friday.

While Vox is unlikely to become the dominant political force after Sunday’s polls, it could be placed in a kingmaker position and has caused increasing polarization between Spain’s left and right.

While the results of Spain’s elections on Sunday are impossible to predict, the most likely possibilities are a left-wing coalition, which may have to resort to the controversial support of regional nationalist parties or a right-wing coalition backed by Vox.

Another likely outcome is that no obvious coalitions exist and Spain’s Parliament again goes months without a functioning government. That scenario could cause voters to return to the polls in national elections long before the government’s four-year term is up.

Spain heading into its most uncertain polls in history

By Senhan Bolelli

MADRID (AA) – Political parties in Spain have kicked off their campaigns with mutual accusations ahead of general elections on April 28, which could produce unexpected results.

Parties are looking for ways to persuade a high percentage of undecided voters — 41% according to polls.

While right-wing political parties are highlighting the Catalonia independence problem, the left wing is highlighting the rising right-wing threat.

In previous elections, parties held more moderate campaigns for coalition prospects. However, 2019’s campaign started with a declaration of red lines and strong accusations.

After December’s parliamentary elections in the southern Andalusian autonomous region, the conservative Popular Party (PP) established a coalition government with the center to center-right Citizens (C's) Party and the far-right Vox Party.

It is expected that the three parties will maintain their alliance post-elections.

However, polls published so far in Spain’s media predict that the total number of deputies of the PP, C's and Vox parties will not be enough consist majority in the parliament.

The polls also show that the total votes of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Podemos Party will not be enough to put the leftist bloc in charge.

Even though a coalition between PSOE and C’s would secure the majority to form a government, C’s has already rejected forming such an alliance.

C’s leader Albert Rivera said "there will be no agreement, no matter what" after elections with PSOE leader and current Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, accusing him of buckling under the demands of "the separatist Catalans".

Only a month after the general elections, the Spanish people will head to the ballot boxes once again on May 26 for the European Parliamentary elections, as well as regional and local elections.

  • Rise of far right due to Catalonia independence issue

The nomination of some separatist Catalan politicians, who are on trial as a result of the illegal pro-independence referendum of Oct. 1, 2017, is leading democracy discussions in the country.

The pro-independence political parties in Catalonia demand that the detained Catalan politicians be allowed to participate in the election campaigns. However, this has been rejected by both the Central Election Board and Spanish courts.

Additionally, some detained Catalan politicians — who were nominated from top of their respective candidate list — are leading to discussions of legality post-elections, if they were to be elected.

The far-right Vox party, which will participate in general elections for the first time, has made the Catalonia independence problem the most important agenda item in its election campaign.

If Vox leader Santiago Abascal governs Spain, he has promised to implement Article 155 of the constitution to freeze the autonomous administration of Catalonia, close the local police department (Mossos d'Esquadra) and hand it over to the national police, declare separatist Catalan parties illegal, close them and arrest separatist politicians.

Vox is also trying to woo voters with its policies against Islam and immigration.

  • Consistent ruling problem in Spain

Spain’s political system based on two major parties, PP and PSOE, collapsed following the 2008-2014 economic crisis, and the political instability problem is not expected to be resolved with the upcoming elections.

As a result of the economic crisis, the presence of new parties such as Podemos and C's had caused PP and PSOE to lose votes. Since 2015, no parties have been able to gain the majority to form a government, which led the country to hold general elections for a third time in the last four years.

On July 26, 2016, Spain held elections once again after it couldn’t form a government in the 2015 elections. The minority government established by the PP remained in power until June 2018.

Following a vote of no confidence, the PP was replaced by another minority government under the PSOE, and after eight months of rule, the party decided to hold early general elections.

*Writing and contribution by Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara