Campaigning for the upcoming elections in Spain is defined by economic conditions and unemployment. It has close to five million people out of work, around 21 percent, the worst it has been in 15 years. Many people appear fatalistic, unmotivated to vote. They do not believe the campaign promises.
A laid-off security guard said: “What can I possibly hope for from the politicians? The whole of Europe is in a crisis. It’s not a problem of government. If one can’t solve it then maybe another one can do something with new ideas but they’ll never completely fix the problem. Things will go on like this.”
Spain’s conservatives have a big lead in the polls. Last year the Socialists in power slashed spending. This is to chop the deficit from more than nine percent down to six this year. A lot of the budget cuts were in autonomous regions governed by the centre-right People’s Party.
This year in May, the PP, or Partido Popular, led by Mariano Rajoy, won massively in municipal and regional elections. He has been unsuccessful twice. Now he sees his big chance: in the national legislative elections.
Rajoy said: “Tomorrow I’m going to get down to work. All the PP candidates will, to deliver on our electoral programme and put Spain back on track — its economy, job creation and everything we’ve told you during this campaign.”
At the end of July, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced that elections would be held four months earlier than planned, figuring this might be better timing for the Socialist party. The date would be 20 November, he said.
Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, as the Socialists’ candidate to lead the campaign, served as minister of the interior till the spring. He can not dissociate himself from the government’s austerity programme, which makes his job tougher, but he gets some benefit from the Basque separatist group ETA’s renunciation of violence in October.
When that happened, Rubalcaba said the state of law had overcome: “Democracy and the institutions have won. Let’s congratulate the police for their efficiency and commitment.”
But the ETA news was drowned out by the economic data, Indignado protests and job and debt fears, which have set the election mood.