Spain's ruling Popular Party won yesterday's regional elections in Andalucia, but may not be able to force the Socialists from power.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's party secured 50 seats in the 109-seat assembly, three more than the Socialists, in power for 30 years, but the Socialists could stay in power with the support of the United Left (Izquierda Unida).
Mr Rajoy had hoped for outright victory ahead Friday's budget, which is expected to herald deep spending cuts.
Spain is facing its first general strike for more than a year on Thursday - a day before the latest budget announcement. Initial spending cuts and tax increases were announced in January.
The Popular Party's leader in Andalucia, Javier Arenas (pictured), praised the victory as an "historic achievement" although, as the daily El Pais pointed out, the PP's share of the vote was down 5% on the general election.
He had earlier promised major spending cuts in the region, but said he would leave education, health and social provision untouched.
Andalucia is Spain's most populous region with more than six million voters, has Spain's highest jobless rate of 31% and one of the country's highest regional debts.
A vote was also held on Sunday in the northern region of Asturias but while the Socialists picked up most seats, no party emerged as a clear winner.