April 26 (UPI) -- Nationalism and the push for Catalonian independence could shake up the national election in Spain Sunday as far-right candidates vie to unseat socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Nationalism and social issues are among the most debated in the Spanish campaign -- and Catalonia independence is making another push less than two years after its failed first attempt.
"There is quite a heavy division, to the extent of which the election, at least for the right, looks a lot like a referendum on Sanchez and Catalonia," said Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations Madrid office. "Of course, Sanchez wants to avoid that and turn the election into a discussion on progressive policy versus the right wing."
Four candidates are running for prime minister, including Sanchez.
The election, the third in four years, was necessary after right-wing opponents rejected Sanchez's budget in parliament.
An ongoing economic crisis has fragmented Spain's political parties in recent years, including the far left-wing Podemos party, the centrist populist Ciudadanos party and far-right Vox party. The Vox party has secured several unexpected victories at the local and national level, a first since dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975. Early polls suggest the five parties could each end up with about 10 percent of the vote, not enough for an effective majority.
The Catalonia issue has raised some concerns about the unity of the country under Sanchez. Right-leaning parties also say their values are being eroded by gender and LGBT rights legislation. The influx of migrants from Africa or the Middle East is another issue.