Spanish Socialist party suffers crushing defeat in local and regional elections

10:51, May 23, 2011      

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Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attends a news conference at PSOE headquarters in Madrid May 22, 2011.Spain's centre-right opposition Popular Party took the lead in Sunday's local elections that were expected to inflict heavy losses on the ruling Socialists after a week of protests over high unemployment. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The Spanish Socialist (PSOE) party of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero suffered a crushing defeat in the local and regional elections held in Spain this Sunday.

The Socialists polled less than 28 percent of the vote, while the right wing Partido Popular (PP) polled over 37 percent on a day which saw the PSOE lose control of every autonomous community in the country, even Extremadura, which polls had predicted they would be able to govern with the support of the left wing Izquierda Unida.

The PP also won the region of Castilla La Mancha for the first time, taking the largely agricultural regional from the PSOE. However, it was not only in the regions where the PSOE suffered heavy defeats: Zapatero's party lost control of the local authorities in cities such as Barcelona, where Catalan Nationalists CiU is now the majority party, and also in Sevilla, where the PP retook control of the town council after over 20 years.

Meanwhile the PP extended its control over regions and cities such as Valencia, where they have been heavily tainted by corruption scandals, and in regions such as Castilla-Leon on a terrible night for the socialists, who lost the elections by over 2 million votes.

Zapatero admitted that the PSOE had "clearly lost the elections, " and blamed the defeat on the economic crisis which has left over 4.3 million Spaniards out of work.

"It was to be expected that we would receive some punishment, we understand that and we accept it," said Zapatero, who added that he had no intention of bringing forward the General Election scheduled for March 2012.

One of the big stories of the night was the success of the Basque independence seeking socialist coalition Bildu, which has received the second highest number of votes in the Basque region of Northern Spain.

Bildu received 25.45 percent of the vote in Euskadi and Navarra and was only bettered by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) which took slightly over 30 percent of the vote in Euskadi (the Basque Country). Bildu, which was only allowed to stand at the elections just over a fortnight ago, after the Constitutional Court ruled it did not have links to separatist group ETA and its political wing Batasuna, has seen over 950 councillors elected more than PNV and has become the fifth most voted party in Spain.

While Bildu beat the PSOE in San Sebastian, the PNV took Bilbao in which the PSOE has become just the fourth most voted party.

With less than 10 months until the General Election it is clear the PSOE has a enormous amount of work to do, however despite the celebrations outside of their headquarters in Madrid, the PP must also be disappointed that with the country in the grip of a dreadful economic crisis they have failed to reach 38 percent of the votes.

Meanwhile IU will hope the they will be able to gain from the 15-M protest movement in the coming months and take steps to becoming a viable third force.

And of course much will depend on whom the PSOE choose as their new leader and how the economy performs between now and the General Election.

Source: Xinhua

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