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Aline Schuiling, senior economist at ABN AMRO, points out that the Spanish general elections will be held on Sunday 28 April and the most recent polls show that the social-democratic PSOE led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will probably become the biggest party, with around 29% of the votes, or around 125 of the 350 seats in parliament.

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“A result in line with these polls would give Mr Sánchez the initiative in the negotiations to form a coalition. This formation will probably be complicated, though. The PSOE’s preferred coalition partner would be the left-wing Unidos Podemos (P-IU). However, the two parties combined would not get a majority of the seats in parliament and would need the support of some smaller left-wing regionalist or separatist parties.”

“As the stance towards Catalonia’s strive for independence has become the bone of contention in Spain’s national politics, it seems that a coalition between PSOE, P-IU and the smaller regionalist/separatist parties would not be feasible. Next, Mr Sánchez would probably try to form a coalition with the centrist Ciudadanos (Cs), which also is against a Catalonia referendum.”

“Cs would get around 15% of the votes, or 49 seats in parliament according to the polls, implying that a centre-left coalition of PSOE and Cs would almost get a majority of the seats in parliament. Still, Cs have shifted more to the right side of the political spectrum in recent years, while its leader Albert Rivera has ruled out any possible alliance with Mr Sánchez.”

“The alternative for a coalition led by PSOE, would be a centre-right coalition of the Partido Popular (PP), Cs and the far-right nationalist/populist Vox. According to the polls, a combination of these three parties would get a total of around 47% of the votes or around 161 of the 350 seats in parliament, which would be short of a majority. Moreover, it will probably be difficult to bridge some of the ideological differences between Cs and Vox, or even between PP and Vox. Therefore, the formation of a centre-right coalition will probably also be difficult.”

“All things considered, we think a centre-left coalition consisting of PSOE and Cs would only be feasible in a later stage of the formation process, when all the other options have been tried and failed and the two parties would join forces merely to protect national stability and avoid yet another round of indecisive elections or another minority government.”

“Overall, coalition formation will be difficult and could take time. Having said that, it seems that no matter what the outcome of the election will be, the next government will again be dominated by mainstream parties located around the centre of the political spectrum.”