MADRID: A divided Spanish electorate flocked to the polls on Sunday, responding to a plea from party leaders for a high turnout in what promises to be the countrys most open-ended and potentially pivotal election in decades.

After a tense campaign dominated by a debate over national identity and other emotive issues such as gender equality, a fragmented parliament beckons – featuring the first bloc of far-right lawmakers since Spains return to democracy in the 1970s.

The Socialists of outgoing Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez are expected to finish first. But opinion polls show no single party close to winning a majority, making it likely that any coalition deal will take weeks or months to broker and feeding in turn into a broader mood of political uncertainty across Europe.