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‘Brexit’ Looms Large Over Spanish Elections

Mariano Rajoy, the acting prime minister of Spain
Mariano Rajoy, the acting prime minister of Spain, after a news conference on the results of the British referendum on Friday. “In these moments, it is particularly important to transmit a message of institutional and economic stability,” Mr. Rajoy said.

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union offered Spain’s acting prime minister an opportunity to warn voters against opting for a radical overhaul under Podemos, an upstart leftist party competing in elections on Sunday.

Mariano Rajoy, the acting prime minister, said on Friday that his government was sad to see Britain leave the European Union, and told Spaniards that they should confront the future with “serenity,” as the British referendum result sent Spain’s financial markets tumbling.

Mr. Rajoy used the market tremors to underline the economic progress achieved under his administration. An external shock like the “Brexit” referendum, he argued, “could have precipitated Spain into bankruptcy or bailout only a few years ago: that isn’t now the case.”

“In these moments, it is particularly important to transmit a message of institutional and economic stability,” he added.

“These aren’t moments to fuel or add uncertainties,” he said, alluding to the economic plans of Podemos.

Spain’s politicians have largely ignored the British referendum during the election campaign, preferring instead to focus on Venezuela and Greece as examples of far-left countries in dire economic straits. Even on Thursday, Mr. Rajoy told supporters during an election rally that “Spain is not Venezuela.”

However, the British vote to leave the European Union gave several politicians the opportunity to depict Podemos as a threat to Spain’s fragile economic recovery.

Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciudadanos, another emerging party, said that the referendum revealed the risks of a Europe unable to reform itself, which “gives wings to populism.”

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, sought to play down the link with the British vote, saying on Friday that it was wrong to “mix international events in the campaign.”

Mr. Iglesias said that Podemos, far from promoting a European breakup, was the only Spanish party to send a senior official to Britain to take part in the campaign against it leaving the bloc.

The Brexit vote could also have serious consequences for Gibraltar, the British territory at the southern tip of Spain, whose citizens voted almost unanimously to remain within the European Union.

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