Spain’s opposition centre-right party is set to narrowly win a summer snap election over the ruling Socialists.
The conservative People’s Party (PP) is slightly ahead with 136 seats compared to the Socialist’s with 122 seats in the 350-seat parliament on Sunday, after 95 per cent of the votes were counted.
Vox, the hard-right party, won 33 seats, a fall from 52 seats, while the far-left Sumar party won 31 seats.
Polls had predicted a decisive victory for the PP but the results have fallen far short of this. Now all main parties may struggle to form a government and a hung parliament seems most likely.
The PP could join forces with Vox with a simple majority, in what would be the first time a far-right party entered government since the death of fascist dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.
Earlier, millions of Spaniards swapped the beach for the polling stations, voters dressed in swimwear and used voting papers as fans to cast their votes in sweltering heat with temperatures reaching 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in parts of the south.
In Palma in Mallorca, elderly voters fainted as they cast votes inside in the stifling confines of a school, so authorities moved the urns to a terrace outside which was in the shade.
One voter wore flippers and a snorkel to protest at the summer election when millions of Spaniards are usually on holiday.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the snap election after the ruling left-wing coalition suffered heavy defeats in local elections in May.
In Gava, a seaside resort near Barcelona, Lourdes Canudos Bilbeny said two election invigilators, who are called up by the authorities and cannot refuse, had had to cancel a holiday for the election.
“Inside the heat is insufferable. They have two fans and that is it,” she said.
Canudos Bilbeny, 56, a customs officer, voted for Vox because she said she was concerned about law and order.
“I work in the port of Barcelona, and we seize about 700kg of cocaine every week. We cannot cope, there are not enough people,” she told i.
Vox wants to strengthen support for the police and the armed forces if it enters government.
The populist party wants to change ‘domestic violence’ for ‘intrafamilial violence’ because it says it should include attacks on men, children, and the elderly not just women.
“I am a woman and of course there is violence against women and that is wrong. But I also know a relative whose wife beats him,” said Canudos Bilbeny.
At the same polling station, Dolores Fernández, 78, said she voted for the Socialists.
“I am terrified of Vox. I do not want to see that for Spain. It seems the whole of Europe is going that way after Finland, Poland, Hungary,” she told i.
In Madrid, in the fashionable Malasaña neighbourhood, there was a long queue to enter the polling station with many people using fans to keep themselves cool.
“It makes me mad that they have to hold an election when we should be away on holiday and getting away from this damn heat,” said Carlos Alvarez, who had not voted.