Acting Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy (left) acknowledges the applause during the meeting of ruling Popular Party’s executive committee held one day after general elections, in Madrid. Photograph: EPA/Ballesteros

The Popular Party leader has topped the poll but is still short of the majority he needs

 Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s acting Prime Minister of the caretaker government, casts his vote for the Spanish general election   in Madrid. Spanish voters went back to the polls   after the last election in December failed to produce a government.  Photograph:  Denis Doyle/Getty

Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party gains 14 seats while Unidos Podemos remain in third place

Pablo Iglesias, leader of the left-wing party Podemos, gestures towards supporters at a meeting ahead of tomorrow’s elections. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Governing Popular Party confronted by new threat from the Left in weekend’s elections

María José Jiménez: fell just under 4,000 votes short of victory in December last, a small margin separating her from what would have been a historic achievement. Photograph: Guy Hedgecoe

María José Jiménez in bid to become first Gypsy woman to reach Spain’s parliament

Arnaldo Otegi: “I think people want to see in me a reference point to cling to, someone who represents their values, their projects, their principles, but that’s asking an enormous amount, that’s frightening.”

Basque leader either lionised as figure of peace or reviled as apologist for terrorism

Patxi Ziskar (in red), head coach of the Kurene club: “We want [the young players] to be good people, to have the right values regarding their behaviour and how they treat opponents and playing partners.” Photograph: Guy Hedgecoe

Pelota, a symbol of Basque identity, is struggling to stand out from other sports in Spain

Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera (centre) walks next to Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, upon his arrival at Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday. Photograph: Marco Bello/Reuters

Visit by Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos draws hostile response from Maduro administration

Spain’s acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy is planning to implement new austerity measures if he remains in government after a June election, in a bid to avoid a European Commission sanction for failing to control the public deficit.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy plans cuts to avoid European Commission sanction for failing to control the public deficit

 Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias (aged 37 - left) and United Left’s Alberto Garzón (30 - right)  gesture in front of   crowds during an event with supporters  in Madrid, Spain,  May 9th, 2016. The two  have a preliminary agreement to form a coalition for taking part in another general election next month. File photograph: EPA

Acting PM Mariano Rajoy casts self as only serious option, untainted by frenzied talks

Demonstrators listen to a speaker at Madrid’s famous  Puerta del Sol in May, 2011. Jon Aguirre Such got involved in organising a series of demonstrations that became “los indignados”. Photograph: Andrea Comas/Reuters

In early 2011, the young Basque activist was one of Spain’s most recognisable faces

 El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen): the bodies of brothers Manuel and Antonio Ramiro Lapeña Altabás lie here.  Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Authorisation for remains of brothers killed in 1936 to be given a ‘dignified burial’

Spain’s King Felipe signs a decree to dissolve parliament and call new elections during a meeting with parliamentary speaker Patxi Lopez at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid. Photograph: Courtesy of Casa de S.M. el Rey/Handout via Reuters

Politicians failed to agree on prime minister after inconclusive December vote

Acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy (left) and Catalan president Carles Puigdemont  at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

With no government in place, separatists have progressed secession plans

A dog cools off in a fountain in Madrid. City Hall has published on its website a “dog excrement map”, highlighting all the streets of the capital where dog mess is deemed a regular problem. Photograph:  Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

People who fail to pick up after animals can either pay fine or choose to clean city streets

Spanish acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy  with Catalan president Carles Puigdemont:  pair met on Wednesday in Madrid. Photograph:  Susana Vera/Reuters

Spain’s image would be improved internationally if referendum is staged – Puigdemont

Córdoba’s Mosque-Cathedral: its new tourism brochure acknowledges the cathedral’s Islamic past. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

Campaigners celebrate victory against Catholic Church in tourism brochures feud

Pablo Iglesias, leader of the left-wing party Podemos, during a debate at the Spanish parliament in Madrid. Photograph: AFP Photo/Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Eighty per cent of voters say the political situation is ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’

Primark  opened the first store on Dublin’s Mary Street in 1969. It expanded steadily in Ireland – where it is known as Penneys – and Britain over the next three decades, before moving into Europe

Primark’s low-cost products have been popular with Spaniards seeking a bargain

Abengoa solar plant is seen at the “Solucar” solar park in Sanlucar la Mayor, near the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain . Photograph: Reuters/Marcelo del Pozo

Energy group avoids biggest Spanish corporate collapse

Rescue workers remove the coach after a crash that left 13 students dead at the AP-7 motorway in Freginals, in the province of Tarragona, northeastern Spain Photograph: Jaume Sellart/EPA

Women from Italy, Germany, France, Romania, Uzbekistan and Austria killed

Firemen work at the site of the coach crash in which 43 people were injured, although some of them only lightly. Photograph: Jaume Sellart/EPA

Three Irish students among 34 bus passengers treated in hospital after incident

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias (right) and fellow party deputy Inigo Errejon: Iglesias has sought to dampen dissent in a message to party members. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

The political party’s energy is dissipating as internal disputes pull it apart

Spanish bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla is hit by his second bull during a bullfight held on the occasion of the Las Fallas festival in Valencia on March 12th. The traditional sport is falling from public favour. Photograph:  Kai  Foersterling/EPA

Controversial sport of bullfighting is lumped in with a past Spain’s left wing seeks to obliterate

Francis Bacon: Although  based in London, he made frequent trips to Spain, drawn by the country’s lifestyle and artistic heritage. Photograph:  David Montgomery/Getty

Paintings worth €30m were stolen from private home in Madrid in June 2015

Socialist members of the Spanish parliament applaud leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and candidate for prime minister Pedro Sanchez   in Madrid. Photograph: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

Socialists’ attempts to forge new government have deepened divisions between parties

Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi speaks to  supporters after being released from prison on Tuesday. “This is an historic day, we’ll definitely remember this day for years to come,” one supporter said. Photograph: Ander Gillenea/AFP/Getty Images

Otegi likely to run for Basque regional premier for the EH Bildu coalition in elections

Arnaldo Otegi speaks after being released from Logrono’s prison on March 1st, 2016. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Otegi (57) jailed in 2009 for trying to reform political party linked to terrorist group Eta

 People gather for aJunts pel Sí (Together for the Yes)  rally in Barcelona on September 25th, 2015. Photograph:  Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Parties in Madrid still wrangling over formation of a new Spanish government

 Spain’s acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy: He rejected King Felipe’s invitation to try to form a government, on the grounds that he knew he would lose the congressional confidence vote. Photograph: Diego Crespo/Prime minister’s office/

As four factions fail to form a coalition, voters wonder if big picture is ignored

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez (left) announcing a potential coalition agreement with Albert Rivera of Ciudadano. Photograph: Reuters/Juan Medina

Socialists and Ciudadanos sign accord and look for support to form government

Novelist Javier Cercas: ‘I’ve often asked if we Spanish deserve Cervantes. Now I know we don’t.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Spain’s greatest writer mainly of interest to academics and cultural elite, say critics

Members of the Spanish Special Group Against Organised Crime engaged in a drugs investigation aboard a catamaran in the harbour of La Coruna. Photograph: EPA

Drugs, guns, explosives dominate scene in which ‘new life can be invented with ease’

A water department engineer in southern Spain has been fined for going absent from work for six years. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Engineer in Cádiz was about to receive long service award when absence was noticed

About 200 protesters take part in a demonstration against the arrest of two puppet players, at Cibeles Square in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Fernando Alvarado/EPA

Two men arrested for allegedly glorifying terrorism after complaints from viewers

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez arrive for a meeting at the Spanish parliament in Madrid yesterday. Photograph: Andrea Comas

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez is directing energy at mustering support to become PM

Spain’s King Felipe (left) greets acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy before their meeting at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid. Photograph: Andres Ballesteros/Reuters

Politicians are being urged by a frustrated electorate to get on with forming a government

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who was elected on Sunday: the Portuguese president’s duties are mainly ceremonial, but he can veto laws and dissolve parliament. Photograh: Hugo Correia/Reuters

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa signals some common ground with leftist government

 Spanish king Felipe VI (left)  with the leader of left-wing  party Podemos, Pablo Iglesia. Photograph: Angel Diaz /AFP/Getty Images

Spain’s acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy decides not to stay on due to lack of support

New era requiring consensus between disparate groups unlikely to last long

Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont delivers a speech during his investiture at the Catalunya parliament in Barcelona on Sunday evening. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

‘This is not a time for cowards,’ says strident separatist premier Carles Puigdemont

Spain’s Princess Cristina of Spain and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, who go on trial on Monday on tax fraud charges, pictured in June 2010. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Cristina de Borbón (50) is the first Spanish royal to face criminal proceedings

Children reacting during the ‘Three Kings’ parade in Madrid on Tuesday. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Parade takes place during eve of the Epiphany and marks end of the Christmas festivities

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy: Looking for support from other parties to form a conservative government. Photograph: Sergio Barrenechea/EPA

With ruling conservatives lacking a majority, the pressure is on left-leaning parties to unite

  CUP assembly debates  whether to support  the investiture of Catalonian acting president Artur Mas. Photograph: EPA/Alberto Estevez

Separatist premier Artur Mas struggles to gain vital support of left-wing CUP party

Left-wing party Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias: Warned he would demand a referendum on independence for Catalonia in return for his party’s support. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Socialists unwilling to back PP and are set to vote against ‘investiture of Mariano Rajoy’

Spanish prime minister and Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy casts his vote. Photograph: AFP Photo

Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party wins 122 seats in Spain’s 350-seat chamber

Podemos (We Can) leader Pablo Iglesias casts his vote in Madrid. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Four-way race represents ‘watershed’, says socialist leader

At a rally in Madrid, Albert Rivera compared himself to Barack Obama, saying: “A lot of people told him he couldn’t govern the US, but in 2008 hope defeated fear.” Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

As Spain goes to polls, Ciudadanos’s Albert Rivera may become kingmaker, if not PM

Clay “caganer” (defecator) figures of Albert Rivera, Mariano Rajoy, Pedro Sanchez and Pablo Iglesias at the Santa Llucia market in Barcelona. “Caganers” are believed to bring good luck. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Scandal-plagued prime minister Mariano Rajoy is still favourite to win in Sunday’s vote

Navalcarnero’s ‘Calvary Roundabout’, which cost the town hall €212,000 but failed to prove a magnet for tourists. Photograph: Guy Hedgecoe

Despite four years of cutbacks and tax hikes Popular Party government holds poll lead

  Podemos leader  Pablo Iglesias gestures as he delivers a speech during a campaign meeting in Palma de Mallorca. Photograph: Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images

Leftist Spanish party a victim of its own success as many voters no longer believe it can

 Spanish vice prime minister Soraya Saez de Santamaria: not only is she on posters across Spain, but in the media she is seemingly omnipresent. Photograph:  Juan Carlos Hidalgo/EPA

Popular Party’s number two could be more acceptable if a coalition has to be negotiated

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: he is underlining his economic credentials as he seeks re-election. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Campaign for December 20th general election marked by an end to bi-party system

Demonstrators show Francoism victims during a march in Madrid. If the Pamplona proposal is passed it would be the first time  a local authority in Spain has sought  legal proceedings in connection with abuses  under the Franco regime. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

City is expected to approve criminal investigation into human rights abuses

An undated picture of General Francisco Franco riding his horse. Towards the end of his regime, Franco had started to open the country up to tourism and international trade, but in many ways Spain’s economy was still lagging behind its European neighbours. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Economic and social progress brought great confidence before a harsh reality check

The republican mausoleum bearing the blotted inscription ‘Honor a los caidos’ (Honor to the fallen) in Belchite, Aragon. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty

General’s principles still lauded by supporters on 40th anniversary of his death

Acting President of Catalonia Artur Mas. Opponents say many Catalans do not want independence.  Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Tensions within separatist movement may stall ‘democratic disconnection’ from Spain

The independence initiative has deeply divided the Catalan parliament, which passed a motion declaring the start of the secession process. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Region is taking the first steps towards seceding from Spain

Melilla’s temporary stay centre for immigrants. Photograph: Guy Hedgecoe

Tensions as refugee centre overflows with ever more long-term residents

Volkswagen  admitted this week that 800,000 of its cars around the world have  faulty CO2 emissions.  Photograph:  Reuters

Some estimate reimbursement linked to emissions scandal could amount to €50m

Pope Francis, who has received  a dossier containing allegations of “sexual slavery” in Kenya by a missionary order. Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

Man writes to pope and takes case to Vatican

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy is meeting the leaders of the  Ciudadanos and Podemos parties on Friday as he tries to build an alliance against Catalan secession.  Photograph: Juan Medina

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy to meet leaders of Ciudadanos and Podemos parties

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: Vowed  to thwart Catalan independence. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

PM suggests he may use courts to block move as separatists eye quick seceession

Portuguese president Aníbal Cavaco Silva: described a Socialist-Communist-BE coalition as “a clearly inconsistent alternative” which threatened to undermine the economy. Photograph: Manuel De Almeida/EPA.

Cavaco Silva accused of acting beyond his brief in blocking formation of left-wing coalition

Armed response: police at the arrest of two suspected Eta members in July. Photograph: Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty

It’s four years since the terrorist group ended its armed campaign for an independent Basque state. But the legacy of violence is (...)

Catalan president Artur Mas thanks followers as he leaves the Superior Court of Catalonia in Barcelona on Thursday. Photograph: Andreu Dalmau/EPA

Hundreds on streets in Barcelona waving region’s flag and chanting ‘independence’

African migrants sit on a border fence above a golf course during an attempt to cross into Spanish territories between Morocco and Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla. Photograph: José Palazon/Reuters

Many try to reach Europe via highly policed Spanish territory of Melilla in north Africa

The general election result was a clear victory for prime minister and Social Democratic party leader Pedro Passos Coelho but the coalition no longer controls parliament. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Centre-right partnership received 38.5% of the votes – but it will have to read carefully

Pedro Passos Coelho: ‘We’ve spent four years talking about finances and the economy and now everything is in order we can put the dignity back into politics.’ Photograph: Miguel A Lopes/EPA.

Passos Coelho’s Social Democratic Party goes into weekend election with four-point lead

Artur Mas, the leader of Catalonia’s independence drive, is summoned to court. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Artur Mas faces charges over disobeying ruling on 2014 independence referendum

Catalonia’s pro-independence party leaders celebrate after the results of the regional election in Barcelona on Sunday night. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy refuses to give any ground to the separatists

Catalan premier Artur Mas casts his vote  in Barcelona on Sunday. Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Independence from Spain was the key issue in yesterday’s regional elections

Nationalists had used the regional election as a plebiscite on independence.

Government waves legal stick to warn against moves towards independence

The argument between party leaders Alfred Bosch of ERC (right) and Alberto Fernandez Diaz of PPC (second right) over the  unofficial flag of the Catalonian independent movement and the  Spanish flag   ended when deputy mayor  Gerardo Pisarelo (fourth left) took the flags away. Photograph: Alberto Estevez/EPA

Nationalist parties are threatening to secede from Spain depending on results of vote

Perils of protest: Not only does Catalonia risk leaving the euro, it could could also see FC Barcelona barred from playing in the Spanish league. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

‘Propaganda war’ between separatists and unionists pivots on EU membership

A giant leap for Catalan’s? “El Llibre de les Meravelles” (or “The Book of Marvels”) has been published just as the attention of Spain, and much of Europe, is focused on Catalonia ahead of its regional election on September 27th

Doctored images in ‘The Book of Marvels’ poke fun at customary triumphalism

Osama Abdul Mohsen, the Syrian refugee who made world headlines when a Hungarian journalist tripped him over as he fled, addresses journalists next to the director of the Spanish football coaching school, Miguel Ángel Galán   after arriving   in Madrid. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

Hungarian camera operator who stuck her foot out in front of migrants dismissed

People march  in Barcelona for Catalan independence on  Catalan  National Day. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Catalans mark national day and the beginning of an election campaign

The Catalan flag on the facade of the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona during a ceremony to mark national day. Photograph: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

Catalan nationalists use the Diada to campaign for independence

While the conservative government highlighted that Spain’s unemployment had dropped by 360,000 over the last 12 months, many observers have cast in doubt prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s assertion that the macroeconomic recovery is reaching ordinary Spaniards.  Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Spanish recovery yet to really dent unemployment as classified advertisement shows

Regional premier Artur Mas intends to begin a unilateral secession from Spain if pro-independence parties gain more than half the seats in the Catalan election. Photograph: Lluis Genelluis/AFP/Getty Images

Polls indicate election will be tightly fought

Rodrigo Rato  leaving  his office in April after being charged with fraud. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

App inspired by real-life scenarios such as arrest of former minister Rodrigo Rato for fraud

Activists lie half-naked covered in fake blood during a protest against bullfighting in Vitoria, northern Spain. Photograph: David Aguilar/EPA

Animal rights group takes legal action over killing of bull amid changing attitudes

Spain’s King Felipe with Catalan governor Artur Mas after his arrival for their meeting at the Zarzuela palace in Madrid last month. Photograph: Andrea Comas/ Reuters

If Artur Mas and allies win, they plan to have independent Catalan state by 2016 or 2017

Paco Arcadio: “We didn’t go there for money, we went there for a higher reason – because of our ideology, we went because of our principles.”

Two men who fought alongside Kurds face terrorism charges after returning home

Image on Toros magazine sparks row over ‘feminised’ image of bullfighter

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy greets people at the non-profit Tomillo foundation in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

At 22.4%, the rate is just below the level when prime minister Mariano Rajoy took office

Republican soldiers fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Photograph: STF/AFP/Getty Images

State policy of ‘don’t mention the war’ now challenged by growing curiosity

Hundreds of Moroccans protested against the arrest of two women with outfits deemed inappropriate who were charged of ‘gross indecency’, and the assault of a homosexual by a group of people in the city of Fez. Photograph: Abdelhak Senna/EPA

Recent incidents involving minorities and women suggest rising conservatism

President of Catalonia Artur Mas first proposed the idea of a cross-party pro-independence ticket for the September election. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Supporters say plan would ‘create a photograph of Catalan society’

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias embraces Panayota Maniou, a member of the Syriza delegation to the European Parliament, during a demonstration in Madrid in support of Greece. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

Spain keen to be seen as the ‘good student’ in the euro zone classroom

Spain’s economy   minister Luis de Guindos says Spain’s economy  is in good shape. Photgraph: Andrea Comas/Reuters

However observers say that Spain is not immune to contagion

Secretary general of the Spanish Socialist Party Pedro Sánchez and his wife, Begoña Fernandez, wave in front of the national flag  during his official presentation in Madrid  as a candidate for the next general election. Photograph: Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty

Pedro Sánchez’s use of national ensign at Madrid election address causes controversy

The Ducal Palace of Medina Sidonia in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cadiz, Andalucia. Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, the Duchess of Medina Sidonia, was an outspoken campaigner against Franco’s right-wing dictatorship. Photograph:  Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images

Latest twist in extraordinary story of ‘Red Duchess’ of Media Sidonia

The unfinished dome of the cathedral being built by former Trappist monk Justo Gallego  , in Mejorada del Campo, Spain. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Justo Gallego’s work is divinely inspired or an eyesore, depending on your perspective

Manuela Carmena: her honeymoon period as Madrid’s new mayor lasted just a few hours. Photograph: AFP Photo/Gerard Julien

Guillermo Zapata wrote tweets in 2011 mocking victims of Holocaust and Eta

Manuela Carmena, the retired judge who last month took Madrid’s municipal election by storm and is expected to be confirmed as the city’s mayor today. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Retired judge Manuela Carmena set to be confirmed as Spanish capital’s mayor

 Former  Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez speaks to journalists after a meeting  Lilian Tintori (right)  and other  wives of Venezuelan imprisoned opposition leaders, and  members of the opposition alliance  in Caracas, on Monday. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

Felipe González cuts short trip after being denied visit to politicians in jail

A 39-year-old Spanish woman called Lupe says her life was put in serious danger by Ireland’s abortion legislation

Spanish woman forced to carry dead foetus for weeks due to ‘religious fundamentalism’

Supporters of Barcelona wave Catalan independentist flags “Estelada” during the   King’s Cup final at the Camp Nou stadium: the anti-Spanish message was widely anticipated by authorities. Photograph: Lluis Genelluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Both Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao fans booed as Spanish anthem was played

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