Last night Spanish voters taught the Popular Party a lesson they won’t forget easily and used democracy’s best tool to express their disagreement with their government and their desire for change and for a credible system. In a historic result, which we all found difficult to believe as we watched the television, and with a massive turnout of voters – 78% – the Spanish electorate defied all the predictions and pre-election polls. PSOE won 42.64% of the vote and the Popular Party just 37.64%, – 7% less than in 2000. Never before in Spain has a government with an absolute majority lost the elections in Spain.
This morning the Spanish media are all talking or writing about the historic nature of this election result and all tend to agree that the Popular Party has been punished by Spanish voters for the way they handled the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Madrid last week. Just before midnight Spain’s new President appeared before the camaras and pledged to form a government based on respect, dialogue, transparency and integration.
Zapatero has pledged to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops from Iraq if the United Nations does not take control by June 30 (this was a promise he made in his election manifesto), and has promised to look to look towards Europe rather than USA when defining foreign policy. He has also promised to include all political parties in the fight against terrorism.
Some international press reports have expressed the worry that if it is confirmed that the radical Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda was behind the bombing last week, then it will be the first time that this group has affected the outcome of democratic elections (“If al-Qaeda was responsible for Thursday’s attacks, it appears to have had significant influence in changing the government of a leading Western democracy” BBC; “Did al Qaeda hijack Spain poll?” CNN.
Al Qaeda did not determine yesterday’s election result. Spaniards have used these elections to punish the outgoing Government for its handling of the investigation of the train bombings. A democratic government must never be allowed to play political games with terrorism, and this is what a large percentage of the electorate felt their government was doing. Until last week, analysts and pre-election polls suggested that PP would lose their absolute majority, but would still win the elections. They only have themselves to blame for their defeat.