Spain's rural regions become fierce battleground for votes

Spain's rural regions become fierce battleground for votes
In this April 10, 2019 photo, Director of Lagunes ranch Ignacio Enrile Sanchez de Ibarguen, right, talks with Vox's Ciudad Real provincial candidate Ricardo Chamorro, center, at Lagunes ranch, central Spain. Chamorro was telling owners and staff that his upstart party will undertake an unapologetic defense of hunting against "lefties, ecologists and animalists who tell rural dwellers how to live their lives." Politicians are swapping campaign buses for tractors, buddying up with hunters and inspecting the tenderness of tomatoes in the otherwise neglected, emptying Spain as they compete for votes in Sunday's general election, perhaps the most contested and polarized in the country's recent history. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

LA BIENVENIDA, Spain (AP) — Spanish politicians are swapping campaign buses for tractors, buddying up with hunters and inspecting home-grown tomatoes in Spain’s often-neglected rural regions as they hunt for votes in Sunday’s general election, one of the country’s most polarized votes in decades.

The ballot comes as Spain’s traditional bipartisan political landscape — which used to revolve around the left-wing Socialists and the conservative Popular Party — has fractured into five main political parties, including a far-right populist newcomer. That has spurred a race for votes in Spain’s overrepresented hinterland, where nearly one-third of the seats in parliament’s lower house are up for grabs.

Spain’s electoral rules grant a bigger say in parliament’s lower house to provinces with shrinking populations. A few thousand votes in these areas can swing a win for one party or another, turning the “every vote counts” cliché into a reality for candidates far from the big cities.