Despite saying I don't usually like talking politics on the blog, I thought I'd give you an update on the general election which occurred yesterday. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español - Spanish Socialist Worker Party) was re-elected yesterday with an increased majority over Mariano Rajoy's PP (Partido Popular - People's Party, conservative), but not enough to form a majority government. He will probably form an informal coalition government with Catalan nationalist party Convergencia i Unío. The latter were the only minority party to come out unscathed, all the rest lost seats to the two main parties.
The election campaign was one of the most bitter and divisive in recent history, with Rajoy having consistently claimed Zapatero's last election victory in 2004 to be 'invalid' (the PSOE won a surprise victory, due to public backlash against the PP trying to pin the blame for the 2004 Madrid bombings on Basque separatists, when it was actually the work of Muslim extremists). The two television debates pitting the two main candidates against each other were seethingly tense affairs, with the more relaxed Zapatero winning one but the other resulting in a score-draw as Rajoy challenged hard on the economy and immigration. Tensions were further increased after the Basque terrorist organisation, ETA, murdered an ex-councillor of the PSOE just days before the election.
Yet Zapatero has prevailed with a fairly convincing victory. Undoubtedly the result is a good one for Catalunya, Zapatero is quite Catalan-friendly and the main Catalan nationalist party (which actually leans more to the right) will probably be part of his conglomerate government. It's also a good result for Spain as a whole, Rajoy is quite hard-line and several of his policies struck me as very regressive and poorly thought through, especially those on immigration (which would affect me, of course!), the devolution of power and his approach on how to deal with the problem of ETA.
Another very good bit of news was the turn-out statistic, a more-than-respectable 75%, equalling that of four years ago. Britain can only dream of such a high election turn-out, though I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that full democratic elections are still relatively new in Spain - only 30 years ago Franco was still ruling the country with an iron fist and a policy to shoot anybody who disagreed with him (not an exaggeration, unfortunately).
The only real shame of the result was that it has confirmed the bipartite nature of Spanish politics, though there are advantages and disadvantages to that. The big challenge now will be to see if Zapatero can steer Spain through the economic difficulty that lies ahead - despite low unemployment Spain is at the end of a boom, and without careful management and fair bit of luck the economy risks being bought back down to earth with a bump. Interesting times ahead...