SPANISH ELECTION VI – Blue prospects

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.

SPANISH ELECTION V – El péndulo oscila

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.

SPANISH ELECTION II – “Es necesaria una Revolución Ética”

On 20 November Spain will hold a general election. This blog will cover it live from Madrid. This is the second preview post on this mid-economic crisis European election. (For the first build-up article, click here)

“Es necesaria una Revolución Ética”

(An Ethical Revolution is needed)

As European leaders inch closer to a deal to shore up the continent’s leaky defences from the tidal waves of debt and deficit smashing against them, anti-capitalist protests have been continuing across the world. The Occupy Wall Street demonstration is the most well known but these public manifestations of anger do not have their roots in Manhattan but in Madrid. Demonstrations against “corrupt politicians, businessmen, bankers…the defencelessness of the ordinary citizen” have been staged in Spain since the spring, when los indignados (the indignant ones, the outraged) first occupied the Puerta del Sol square in the centre of the Spanish capital.

Of all the demonstrators across the world, it is the Spaniards who will be the next to face an election, on 20 November. On a recent visit to Madrid there was a resounding feeling amongst many people I spoke to of the need for a deeper political and societal change, not the simple switching of government from left to right, as looks set to occur in three weeks.

Los indignados are not party-political and they strive for a Spain that does not simply swing back and forth between the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and the PP (Popular Party). The former, (the government), is accused of exacerbating the crisis and now reacting with chilling austerity measures; the latter, (the opposition), is viewed as having close ties to the big business and large corporations the protesters see as the spark of a culture of greed and deprivation.

They are both seen as an obstinate political class favouring an “obsolete and unnatural economic model”. They are accused of not paying attention to basic rights and of ensuring the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the protesters want a re-alignment of this ‘broken’ society. The desire to break free from a two-party system will not happen and social modification can take generations to come about but the protesters’ wish for financial change is a more realistic aspiration. However confused their demands may be, the indignados movement has spawned a rolling global protest.

In three weeks’ time the spotlight will roll back over Spain and the indignados movement have ensured that their global call for an “Ethical Revolution” in times of economic crisis cannot be dismissed nonchalantly by complacent politicians.