MADRID – Two fledgling parties that have shaken up Spain's political scene were testing their voter appeal on Sunday in parliamentary elections in the unemployment-ravaged Andalusia region.
The left-wing party Podemos party has links to Greece's anti-austerity Syriza and hopes to replicate its rise to power. Podemos means "We Can."
Opinion polls indicate Podemos should come third, while fellow newcomer Ciudadanos, a centrist party whose name means "Citizens," could finish fourth. Ciudadanos wants to see if it can grow out of its original base in Catalonia to become a national power.
Polls forecast that the two traditional heavyweights of Spanish politics, the Socialists and conservative Popular Party, will retain most seats in Andalusia's 109-seat parliament.
The Socialists have governed Andalusia continuously since 1982, but could require coalition support from one of the new parties.
The two newcomers blame Spain's political establishment for Andalusia's Spain-leading 34.2 percent unemployment rate.
The results will be studied closely as a measure of how deeply disillusionment with the established political forces has cut through to Andalusia's 6.5 million voters.
Two of Andalusia's former Socialist leaders have been named as suspects in an investigation into how a fund established to help the unemployed was allegedly fraudulently managed, benefiting politicians, trade union leaders and even some of their family and friends.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party has also been rocked by scandal, with former treasurer Luis Barcenas in jail after he was found to have held millions of euros in secret Swiss bank accounts.
However, Andalusians hold former Socialist leader Felipe Gonzalez in high esteem. He was born in Seville, Andalusia's capital, and served four consecutive mandates as prime minister from 1982 to1996.
Gonzalez is credited with helping cement democracy in Spain after Gen. Francisco Franco's divisive 1936-1939 civil war that led to his 36-year military dictatorship.
One of the reasons why political leaders and analysts will be interested in the results of Andalusia's vote is that Spain is due for other regional elections in May and a general election before the year's end.