MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's opposition People's Party won an absolute majority in Andalusia's regional elections on Sunday for the first time in Spanish democracy, boosting the new Conservative leader's odds for the national elections in late 2023.
Andalusia, with 8.5 million inhabitants, is the most populated region in Spain. For 40 years it was a stronghold of the main socialist party, which ceded power in 2018 to a conservative coalition government led by the People's Party (PP).
The regional leader, Juan Manuel Moreno, won a historic victory by securing 58 seats and 43% of the votes with 99.5% of the votes counted. This will allow him to govern alone, a rare situation nowadays in Spain where fragmentation and political instability have made coalitions the most widespread form of government in the last five years.
"It's not just a victory for the PP but for all of Andalusia," Moreno told a crowd flying Spanish and Andalusian flags outside the regional PP headquarters in Seville. "Today we have made history in Andalusia."
He said Andalusia could expect four years "of prosperity and improvement".
The vote was the first test for the PP's new national leader, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who belongs to the same moderate camp as Moreno within the party and is seen by public opinion as having a very similar profile. It therefore suggests a good performance for the party in the national elections.
"Moreno and Feijoo's strategy is similar. They went for the centre... This result undoubtedly brings the PP closer to Moncloa (Spain's government headquarters)," said Pablo Simon, professor of political science at the Carlos III University.
The current junior coalition party, Citizens, failed to win any seats, mirroring its demise in recent regional elections elsewhere.
The far-right party Vox, which was on an upward trend in recent elections, has slowed down its trajectory and practically repeated the same result - adding two seats to its score - as in the previous elections in Andalusia in 2018.
The PSOE, which is the party in national government but relying on a junior partner and external parliamentary support, marked its worst score in the region with just 24% of votes.
(Reporting by Jessica Jones and Belén Carreño; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis)