Spanish PM faces key test in regional elections

Madrid: Spain votes Sunday in local and regional elections which will test Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's chances of remaining in power after this year's general election.

In office since 2018, the stakes are high for Sanchez, whose party governs the eurozone's fourth-largest economy in coalition with far-left Podemos.

Of the 12 regions going to the polls, 10 are governed by the Socialists either alone or as part of a coalition.

These regional governments have been crucial allies for Sanchez, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when he relied on them to impose restrictions on social life.

But the votes could mark "a turn to the right" whose magnitude could define the next general election, which has to be held by the end of the year, said Pablo Simon, political science professor at the Carlos III University.

The main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) -- which has for months topped opinion polls -- has framed Sunday's elections as a referendum against Sanchez.

"It is only by voting that we can start to turn the page on 'Sanchismo'," PP head Alberto Nunez Feijoo said Tuesday, using a derogatory expression for Sanchez's policies.