Feature

Spain: Why the Socialists won again

The Socialists have been re-elected

The Socialists have been re-elected—and this time, their victory can’t be called “an accident or a parenthesis,” said El Pais in an editorial. When Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero was first elected, in 2004, the vote came just three days after the hideous Islamist terrorist attacks that killed 191 people in Madrid. Since Zapatero had campaigned on a pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, many commentators, both here and abroad, interpreted his victory as Spanish capitulation to fear of further terrorism. Now that voters have given Zapatero a “second chance,” no such slur can be thrown at him. The Socialists took a solid 44 percent of the vote, compared with the opposition Popular Party’s 40 percent.

The Popular Party has learned that smearing your opponent does not constitute a platform, said Jesus Marana in Publico. Rather than offering a clear alternative program to govern Spain, it spent the past four years “on a crusade to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Zapatero government.” What little agenda of its own the Popular Party does have has a nationalist bent that most Spaniards reject. Catalans and Basques, who support more regional autonomy, were instrumental in giving the Socialists this second victory. Of course, history also played a role. In the 10 elections we’ve had since shedding fascism in the 1970s, Spain has nearly always given the ruling party two terms.

Yet Zapatero’s re-election wasn’t simply handed to him, said Oscar Campillo in El Mundo. Throughout the campaign, he defiantly stood up to his opponents’ allegations that he was soft on terror—yet refused to pander by moving right. He stayed true to his leftist beliefs, pointing with pride to his record as a champion of women’s rights and his legalization of gay marriage. No longer can he be dismissed as “mild, weak, irresponsible, callow, or trivial.”

If only we could trust him to fix the economy, said Valenti Puig in ABC. Zapatero’s “post-ideological” campaign was more a calculated “seduction” than a set of policies. He managed to push the attractive “deceit” that Spain is “more modern and freer” than it was four years ago. In reality, he has given us an education system that threatens to “break all records in spelling errors” and a lax immigration policy that rewards illegal immigrants with citizenship. Under his leadership, Spain has seen increases in unemployment and inflation. One shudders to imagine how much worse it can get after four more years.

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