Spain's opposition conservatives as expected won Sunday's European election, marking its first triumph in a national vote since 2000, but not by the landslide margin some had predicted during the economic crisis.
Spain's Popular Party gained 42.2 percent of votes to the ruling Socialist Party's 38.5 percent, drawing its highest ever support in a European parliamentary election, based on a preliminary count.
"This result calls for a change in government economic policy and many other things because the majority of Spaniards have spoken," PP leader Mariano Rajoy told supporters outside the party's Madrid headquarters.
The victory reinforced Rajoy's leadership, which has been shaken by internal power struggles and corruption scandals.
But the PP lead of 3.7 percentage points was below the 5 point margin analysts said could seriously weaken Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and even lead to early national elections.
The ruling party said the result was "reasonably positive", given governments across Europe had suffered due to the econoimc downturn and calculated that it won the highest support of any socialist party in Europe.