Spain’s political crisis deepens

Report by Paul Feldman

Historic defeats for the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) in regional and local elections have added to the country’s political crisis and made an early election likely.

Before the results were announced, supporters of the Real Democracy Now movement occupying Madrid’s central square, Puerta del Sol, voted to continue their week-long action.

Spain democracy demo

Up to 35,000 people have gathered in the square at different times, angered by massive unemployment, budget cuts and the failure of the political system. Many called for a “no” vote in yesterday’s elections.

Assemblies in the square have held discussions about the creation of a true democracy in a country that lived under the shadow of fascism until 1975.

Spain demo

Parallels between the uprising in Egypt, which began in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Madrid have been clear. The rejection of Spain’s main political parties by young unemployed people is stark.

Solidarity camps have been established throughout Spain as well as outside embassies in London, Paris and other European cities.

Real democracy

The PSOE, in power since 2004, lost municipal strongholds Barcelona and Seville as well as the Castilla-La Mancha region where they have ruled for 28 years, and could end up with clear control of only two or three of Spain's 17 autonomous regions.

The centre-right opposition Popular Party, or PP, had a 10 point lead in the overall national vote. It  the worst defeat for the Socialists in municipal polls since the first post-dictatorship elections in the late 1970s.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez could hardly fail to observe that “these results have a clear relation to the economic crisis we've suffered for three years”. Almost half of Spaniards aged 18-25 are out of work, more than double the European Union average and deep cuts in public spending have aggravated the recession.
Few observers think Zapatero’s government will last until scheduled elections in March 2012 with many PSOE deputies reluctant to approve further planned cuts. Spain could be pulled down the road of Ireland, Greece and Portugal into seeking a bail-out.


Meanwhile, a show of hands in Puerta del Sol approved the idea of keeping the camp going, at least for another week. The buildings that surround the square are plastered with hand-made signs saying "Eat the Rich" and "People of Europe Rise Up."  
The movement, which goes under several names including "M-15" for the day it started on May 15, has published a list of demands. They range from shutting down all nuclear power plants to changes in laws to allow homeowners to turn their property over to the bank and have the entire mortgage cancelled.

"We've been cheated. The politicians try to sell us an economic crisis while they get benefits and fly in first class," said Elisabeth Palencia, a 28-year-old social worker.

23 May 2011

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