It is no coincidence that Spain’s youth protests erupted in the run-up to local elections. On their placards, demonstrators display the reasons for their resentment – no flat, no job.
But they are also denouncing an electoral system
that benefits the two main parties and nationalists at the expense of smaller political groups.
With youth unemployment at 45 per cent, career prospects are bleak, even for the well-qualified, like Violeta, a biotechnologist.
“I don’t imagine my future in Spain,” said the 23-year-old from the Basque Country, protesting in Madrid. “I imagine my future somewhere else because here it is too hard. And I would like to travel abroad so I will keep studying but it won’t be in Spain. that is for sure.”
But for some experts, the discontent runs much deeper.
“I think it is more of a political protest, akin to that of the Arab world rather than what we see, for example, in Greece where it is clearly dissatisfaction at the government’s measures,” said political analyst Miguel Murado.
“Here, the government has passed austerity measures, but that was a year ago, so that is not the main reason.”
It was a year ago this month that Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero implemented a tough austerity package. He has also moved to introduce more flexibility in the labour market but Spaniards are struggling to see any results.
The country has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, at 21.3 per cent. And the economy has failed to gain serious momentum, barely emerging from recession.
In 2010, the total public deficit stood at more than 9 per cent of GDP. The fiscal deficit of the regions has grown considerably in recent years, to 2.83 per cent. The aim is to reduce these figures to 3 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.
With this in mind, the regions, which represent some 36 per cent of total public spending in Spain, have come under pressure to cut costs. The election winners will now have to get to grips with deficit reduction, an unpleasant task which some say has been put off until after the vote.