Spain’s Socialist Party, led by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, won a second four-year term in weekend elections. The party gained three seats in parliament but fell short of a governing majority. Zapatero first beat the ruling Popular Party four years ago in the days after the deadly March 11, 2004, bombing of a commuter train in Madrid, leading to charges from the right that the victory was more fluke than mandate. The Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, also gained seats in the election. (Bloomberg)
What the commentators said
This time Zapatero’s victory can’t be called “an accident or a parenthesis,” said Madrid’s El Pais in an editorial, nor can it be attributed to the “March 11 attacks,” as “the more radical sectors of the political right” have “insidiously repeated” over the past four years. But after the “excessive” combativeness of the campaign, the “democratic fabric of Spanish society” is a little worn. Voters have given Zapatero a “second chance” to govern, but he faces a polarized country that won’t easily tolerate the abundant “errors” of his first term.
If only we knew what Zapatero stood for, said Valenti Puig in Spanish newspaper ABC. His “post-ideological” campaign was more a calculated “seduction” than a set of policies. He managed to push the electorally attractive “deceit” that Spain has “greater modernity and increased liberties” than four years ago. But we have no way to know how he’ll face the realities of growing unemployment, inflation, lax immigration policies, and an education system that threatens to “break all records in spelling errors.”
It’s not that the Socialists don’t have specific goals, said Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree in Time. But their “progressive social agenda”—including enforcing “equal salaries for men and women and gradually shutting down nuclear power plants”—faces a fractious governing coalition and an “emboldened opposition.” Zapatero promised a “new era without antagonism,” but his antagonists will probably stand in his way.
It is almost shocking how quickly “the left-right battle" has reappeared in Spain, said William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune. Blame for the split is “shared”—the Socialists want to bring to Spain a “social agenda now common in Northern Europe,” including liberal positions on abortion, gay marriage, and divorce; the Popular Party and the powerful Catholic Church want to “safeguard” Spain’s traditionalism. But the standoff also dredges up latent conflicts from the Spanish Civil War, with the Socialists looking to “repair historical injustices” and their opponents charging that they are “reopening wounds long healed” for political advantage.