Spectacular defeat for ruling Socialists in local elections
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Spain’s Socialist Party suffered a massive defeat in Sunday’s local elections at the hands of the conservative Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy losing all 13 of the regional parliaments up for grabs. The party also lost historic bastions Seville and Barcelona, a city it had run since the first municipal vote in 1979 four years after the death of dictator Fransico Franco.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed the losses on three years of economic crisis.
“It destroyed thousands of jobs. It is a crisis that had profound effects on citizen’s morale,” he said. “Today, without a doubt, they expressed their discontent.”
With all the votes counted, the Popular Party took 37.53 per cent compared to 27.79 per cent for the Socialist Party. Voter turnout at 66 per cent was up more than two per cent from the last local elections in 2007.
The rout was a grim omen for the Socialist Party ahead of general elections scheduled for early next year, when Rajoy's Popular Party is expected to romp back into office after eight years in opposition.
The collapse of support for the government comes amid massive week-long street protests in the face of a struggling economy and the highest jobless rate in the developed world. Unemployment reached 21.19 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
In a plastic-covered protest camp in central Madrid's Puerta del Sol square, the epicentre of the nationwide movement, thousands of people rallied late Sunday after activists vowed to stay put until 29 May.
The spontaneous popular protests, organized via Twitter and Facebook since 15 May, were the largest since Spain's property bubble collapsed in 2008 destroying millions of jobs.
Meanwhile, a new alliance of Basque separatist parties unexpectedly beat the Socialist Party in municipal elections.
The party, Bildu, was able to field candidates in Sunday's election only after a lengthy court battle to prove it was not a mouthpiece for armed separatist group Eta.
Far exceeding expectations, Bildu came second with just over one quarter of the total, behind the Basque Nationalist Party's 30 per cent but well ahead of the Socialists 16 per cent, results showed.
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