The Partido Popular has won a huge majority in the 2011 Spanish general election. This blog is live in Madrid covering the result and its consequences. For regular updates follow @cullennews on Twitter
It was a record-breaking night. The conservatives have won their biggest ever majority, pounding the ruling Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) in the Spanish lower house by 186 seats to 110, and leaving the centre-left party in their worst ever position. The PP won all but seven of the 50 provinces and increased their majority in the upper house as well, where they now have 136 of the 208 senators.
“I am proud, happy and satisfied. We are facing a decisive time in Spain…but we will be part of the [eurozone crisis] solution, not the problem”
The reaction outside the PP’s headquarters just off Plaza Colón to Mariano Rajoy’s victory words was euphoric. Huge speakers were blasting out something musical for everyone, from Barry White to Frank Sinatra via the latest European club tunes. Hundreds of people crammed in along the street in a strange family-disco atmosphere; infants danced around pushchairs alongside teenagers clutching cans of lager. I was struck by the youthful nature of the crowd, with a large number of children and twenty-somethings showing their proud political colours on a night of joy for the right and desperation for the socialists.
The PSOE central office was a picture of dejection. There was no need for the street to be cordoned off, with about 30 people shuffling around on the pavement. Defeated candidate Arturo Pérez Rubalcaba accepted the result about 90 minutes after polls closed and has said his party will work with the government to try to deal with the economic crisis. According to a communications expert I spoke to, PSOE votes went two ways. Firstly, and unsurprisingly, floating voters plumped for the PP. Secondly, huge numbers of regular socialist supporters went further to the west and voted for the IU (Izquierda Unida, United Left).
Either way, there can be no mistake: the PSOE has been soundly beaten. Mr Rajoy urged his flag-waving supporters to party last night but to be ready for work today. (One wonders if Angela Merkel has put the champagne and beer on her ever-generous continental tab.) Yesterday’s grey drizzle has turned into a bright and warm autumn day but dark times are ahead.
Despite the crushing victory the conservatives have far from convinced the entire country: 312,000 ballot papers were spoiled; 322,000 were left unfilled; and nine million people – a quarter of the nation – did not vote at all. Spaniards will have to work together and be ready to compromise with Europe to confront the rocketing unemployment, rising borrowing costs and budget deficit. A trabajar.