European Elections today in Spain

If the opinion polls carried out in the week leading up to today’s European elections turn out to be accurate, headlines tomorrow will talk of a high rate of abstention and a narrow victory for the Socialist party in the European elections held in Spain today.

The election campaign has been a very tense and verbally agressive one, with both main parties effectively ignoring themes such as the future of Europe, the European constitution, what policies they would push for if elected etc. The main focus of the speeches of both Josep Borrell and Jaime Mayor Oreja at political rallies, debates and declarations in interviews has been the whole issue of Aznar’s support for the war against Iraq, Zapatero’s decision to withdraw troops and the consequences for Spain’s future role in international politics, Aznar’s record as President of Spain, corruption in the last Socialist government and Zapatero’s first weeks as President.

The European elections have arrived too soon after the March general election in Spain, and much of the tension coming out of the campaign is due to the continued resentment of the PP party members at having lost.

Popular Party supporters still continue to chant “Presidente! Presidente!” when Mariano Rajoy, (their leader who lost to Zapatero in the elections) appears on stage at political rallies, in direct reference to their belief that he should have won the general elections in March. The new Socialist government, while succeeding more or less in changing the political climate here by promoting more dialogue and consensus, have made a few minor blunders in their first weeks in government, which have been pounced on by the PP representatives as proof of the Socialist’s lack of experience and incapacity to govern the country.

Spain seems to have been having elections constantly for the past year. One year ago local and regional elections were held all over Spain in most autonomous regions, Madrid had to repeat its regional elections at the end of last Summer, last Autumn the Catalan regional elections were held and given much media coverage all over Spain as they were regarded as a vital final test for all parties in the lead up to the general elections (the Socialist party won and formed a coalition government with regional parties, and were heavily criticised for doing so by the Popular Party who suffered a very poor result). And the rest of the Winter and Spring were dominated by the lead up to the general election in March. So it isn’t surprising that parties haven’t managed to fill venues up for their rallies during this European election campaign.

All national Spanish newspapers agree this morning that abstention will be an important factor in the elections. If there is a high level of abstention, the Popular Party will probably benefit most, because they are much better at organising their supporters to get out and vote than the Socialists. Nevertheless, the fact that both parties look to todays elections to ratify (PSOE) or discredit (PP) the general election results in March might encourage some otherwise weary voters to cast their vote. This year 129.989 EU residents in Spain will participate in the elections and it will be interesting to see what sort of impact their vote has on the outcome. The first results will be available from 10 O’Clock onwards tonight.