Tomorrow, on Sunday, 20 November, Spain will hold a general election. This blog is live in Madrid covering the build-up and the vote itself. For regular updates throughout the weekend, follow @cullennews on Twitter
El péndulo oscila (The pendulum swings)
Today has been the dia de reflexión which traditionally precedes elections. It is a campaign-free day on which to consider your coming democratic decision. So what have Spaniards been thinking about?
The economic situation and high unemployment are the top two items on the list. Arturo Pérez Rubalcaba, the PSOE leader, wants to grow the economy before thinking about imposing any cuts. Mariano Rajoy, his PP counterpart, has not been clear about his economic plans but the undercurrent of gossip is that the conservative austerity axe is coming.
Mr Rajoy must explain how Spain is supposedly going to be different: under the present circumstances pessimism understandably persists. Mr Pérez Rubalcaba likes to point out that Portugal and the UK both recently replaced socialist governments with conservatives who, he says, have only exacerbated their crises with poorly defined and wounding austerity measures. Either way, Spaniards have probably had enough of talking about banks, cuts and bailouts and now want some action.
Also on the list to think about tonight is the widely appreciated belief that Spain could have been different. A photographer from Madrid, a Galician man who works in sales for a multi-national company and writer from Barcelona I spoke to today all exemplified the anger and sense of hopelessness amongst the young and the indignado movement.
However much Rajoy believes he can build a better Spain different from the PSOE-governed country he may inherit, many of the people he needs to inspire to help the economy to grow and the jobs to be created are fed up with the two-party pendulum. They have placed some hope in the new party Equo, which advances many of the same ideas and ambitions of the indignado movement. Equo has set its sights on about five seats (no threat to the pendulum) but the age and spread of voters will be of interest. The latest unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds is shocking: 45.8% of the age group do not have a job.
The PP may be returned to the legislature from the comfort of the regular right and the floating voters of the middle-class. Rajoy must pay attention if the key to Spain’s unknown future, the young, do not vote for him, do not vote at all or vote, for example, for Equo. The fracturing of the youth vote will stop the possibility of a mass change driven by twenty-somethings’ ballot papers. But they are the people with whom the PSOE has started to lose touch. Spain’s new government, whoever it is, must not consider them a lost cause drifting away.
There is, indeed, much for the public to consider this evening. But the Spaniards who must have their thinking caps set tightest on their heads must be the uncertain politicians.