An exit poll from Spain's public broadcaster indicates Spain's opposition conservatives have scored a landslide win in Sunday's parliamentary elections, sweeping the party into power after nearly eight years of Socialist rule.
The poll shows Mariano Rajoy's center-right Popular Party securing an absolute majority in the country's 350-seat parliament, easily defeating the ruling Socialists who are lagging with only 30 percent of the vote. Official results are not yet available.
Rajoy is running for Prime Minister against Socialist candidate Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. Current Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero decided not to seek a third term after his approval ratings sank.
The election has largely been dominated by Spain's economic crisis. The country is fighting to avoid slipping back into recession for the second time in two years. Unemployment stands at 21.5 percent – the highest rate in 15 years.
Spain's economic growth rate ground to a halt in the third quarter, after rising just 0.2 percent during the previous three months. The country is being dragged down by mounting debt and a bleak economic outlook.
Voters are angry with the Socialists for failing to act swiftly to prevent the slide in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy and for enacting austerity measures that have cut wages, benefits and jobs.
An outright victory would hand Rajoy a mandate to enforce the deep cuts seen as necessary to balance Spain's books and steer the country from financial insolvency.
Along with Italy, Spain is considered too big a country to bail out the same way the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have propped up Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
Mr. Zapatero's government liberalized the traditionally Roman Catholic country by introducing reforms such as gay marriage. But he is seen as having been slow to react to Spain's financial crisis.