Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a snap national election on Monday after left-wing parties were routed in a regional ballot, portraying the defeat as a debilitating vote of no confidence in his coalition government.

Sanchez had said on numerous occasions that he wanted to see out a full term in office and that elections would take place in December, near the end of his rotating presidency of the European Union, which begins on July 1.

But the scale of Sunday’s defeat, in which the conservative mainstream People’s Party (PP) took as many as eight regional governments from the Socialists, meant Sanchez felt compelled to “take personal responsibility for the results,” the prime minister said.

“All those reasons lead me to seek a clarification about the wishes of Spain’s people, a clarification about the political direction that the government should take, and about the political forces that should lead the country through that phase.” he said in a televised speech that took even some of his political allies by surprise.

“…I believe it is necessary to respond and submit our democratic mandate to the will of the people.”