MADRID – Spaniards braved scorching temperatures to go to the polls on Sunday in a highly charged election in which the left tried to hold back a predicted conservative wave that could mark the most right-wing government since the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. The outcome could dramatically change the balance of power in a country that is home to some of Europe’s most progressive laws on transgender and abortion rights, and could further disrupt the liberal consensus in the 27-nation EU. The anti-LGBTQ+, anti-feminist, climate-denying Vox party could gain a foothold in the Spanish government as a result of this election, polls suggest. Although Vox is not expected to come in first or even second place, it could become the kingmaker for the center-right Popular Party (PP). If Vox enters government, it would follow similar political successes by the hard right in Italy, Finland, Poland and Hungary, and it comes as arch-conservatives are gaining ground in other European countries, including Germany.