Spain - Italy

Zapatero reluctant to break Spanish jobless protests

Reuters/Andrea Comas

Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero seemed reluctant to act Friday on an electoral commission order to clear protesters from a Madrid square ahead of Sunday’s local elections.


The electoral body late Thursday ruled that the protest in the capital’s Puerta del Sol square, and copycat sit-ins across the country, count as election campaigning, which is illegal on the “day of reflection” that precedes every poll.

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The demonstrators, who call themselves “angry ones” and are protesting at unemployment and cuts, have called for a huge silent rally to begin just after midnight Friday.

Zapatero, whose party is expected to suffer big losses in Sunday’s regional and municipal elections, on Friday said that they are reacting to the effects of the economic crisis “in a peaceful manner”.

Police temporarily dislodged the Madrid demonstrators on Tuesday but they returned and their numbers have swelled.

The movement started on 15 May and has become the biggest wave of protests since Spain’s property bubble exploded in 2008, spreading to Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Cadiz, Malaga, Bilbao, Valencia, Burgos, Palma de Majorca and Santander.

Spain’s unemployment rate stood at 21.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year, the highest in the industrialised world. February’s figure for under-25s was 44.6 per cent.

Spain is to hold a general election by March 2012.

Similar protests were planned in Italy for Thursday night and Friday, where the tag #italianrevolution is a trend on Twitter.

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