Rajoy has a tough run up to Christmas. | Jose Manuel Vidal


Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular has taken a clear lead over rivals in a fragmented political landscape four months before a general election but looks set to fall far short of a majority to govern alone.
An official opinion poll released yesterday showed the PP with 28.2 percent support ahead of the opposition Socialists (PSOE) on 24.9, both up from the last poll published in May, while the radical leftist Podemos movement and the centrist Ciudadanos lost ground on 15.7 and 11.1 percent respectively.
The findings of the large-scale survey by the state-run Sociological Investigation Centre confirmed both the trend towards political splintering and greater instability, and a modest boost for Rajoy’s government from a reviving economy.

With no clear winner emerging, and a September regional vote in Catalonia expected to add fresh divisions, Spain is heading for an unpredictable autumn.
In town hall and regional elections in May, Spaniards swept aside the two-party system that emerged in the late 1970s after the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, ushering in an unstable new era of coalition and compromise.

The latest poll confirmed that up to a third of voters back upstart parties like Podemos, Ciudadanos and other splinter groups and are turning their backs on the traditionally dominant PP and PSOE, tainted by corruption and seen as responsible for the worst economic crisis in decades.
While the economy is now expanding at its fastest pace in more than seven years, a stubbornly high jobless rate and rising income inequality are powerful drivers of deep political change.