Spain’s socialists swept from power in elections

Daniel Woolls, Associated Press

Sunday, May 22, 2011

(05-22) 04:00 PDT Madrid

Spain‘s ruling Socialists suffered a crushing defeat to conservatives in local and regional elections Sunday, yielding power even in traditional strongholds against a backdrop of staggering unemployment and unprecedented sit-ins by Spaniards furious with what they see as politicians who don’t care about their plight.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the result was due punishment of his government for the state of the economy – the jobless rate is a eurozone high of 21.3 percent. But he said he had no plans to move up general elections, which must be held by March of next year, and pledged to press on with job-creating reforms despite the loud outcry of opposition to his party.

The win for the conservative opposition Popular Party puts it in an even stronger position
to win the general elections and return to power after eight years of Socialist rule.

In what Spanish media said was the worst performance on record by the Socialist Party in
local and regional elections, the numbers reflecting the loss were stunning: in 13 regional
governments that were up for grabs, Zapatero’s party lost in virtually all of them. Spain’s
electoral map turned largely blue – the color of the Popular Party.

Zapatero attributed the results to the state of the economy, which is struggling to shake off
nearly two years of recession. “It is reasonable to expect that the Socialist party be punished
today at the polls. We accept this and we understand it,” he said at a gloomy Socialist Party
headquarters.

Protest camps of mainly young people sprang up in cities around the country a week ago and stayed
put, swelling to tens of thousands of demonstrators in the evenings. On Saturday, they defied a
government ban on gatherings the day before an election. The growing protest movement reflects
the strong disillusionment felt by Spaniards toward a political system they say favors economic
interests and political fat cats in both major parties on the right and left over ordinary people.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/22/MN2N1JJI8R.DTL

This article appeared on page A – 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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