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Spain to the polls under market pressure, PP asks for time

20. November 2011. | 06:55

Source: ANSAmed

All polls clearly show that people want change, with the conservative People's Party led by Mariano Rajoy headed for an absolute majority with 46.6% of votes, 16.5 points more than the 29.9% for the socialist PSOE party of Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba.

Spain will vote on Sunday, feeling pressure from the markets and the spectre of an economic bailout around the corner, after an electoral campaign marked by the sovereign debt crisis and the record spread. But also, for the first time in Spain, by the absence of ETA violence.

On Sunday November 20, on the 36th anniversary of the death of dictator Francisco Franco, 35.7 million people in Spain are called to renew the Spanish parliament. Around 1.5 million of these are young people, many of them 'indignados' and unemployed, voting for the first time. '

'Act quickly'' will be the slogan of the new government, which will have to launch further measures to cut the country's deficit, demanded by IMF and Brussels.

According to forecasts made by the European Commission, the country will not reach its deficit reduction targets in the coming three years: in 2011 the deficit will reach 6.6%, six tenths over the planned rate, and problem will continue in 2012 and 2013 due to stagnating economic growth 0.7% of GDP in 2011 and 0.8% in 2012.

The most dramatic result of the prolonged crisis is unemployment, which has risen over 21.5% and could reach 23% in 2012, according to BBVA estimates, 45% among young people below the age of 25. These figures meant the end for the socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was forced to announce his exit in July, calling early elections. The political stage is dominated by the economic uncertainty.

All polls clearly show that people want change, with the conservative People's Party led by Mariano Rajoy headed for an absolute majority with 46.6% of votes, 16.5 points more than the 29.9% for the socialist PSOE party of Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, based on the most recent poll carried out by the national centre for sociological research (CIS). Izquierda Unida, the left-wing coalition, takes advantage of the votes lost by the PSOE, growing from 2 to 8 seats. The Catalan Christian democrats of Convergencia i Union are expected to become the third-largest political force, with 13 MPs. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) will lose 3 seats according to the forecasts, leaving the party 3 MPs.

But the debt crisis is so serious that, as the Wall Street Journal wrote, ''it is unlikely that the elections can cure Spain's problems." Premier 'in pectore' Rajoy has been accused of ''indecision'' by The Times. He has insisted on budget austerity but so far has failed to clearly indicate where cuts should be made. In an interview with El Pais, he said that he will not raise taxes and that he wants to ''maintain the buying power of pensions." He admitted that generalised cuts are needed, but mentions a reduction of public works and the ''suppression of many autonomous bodies'' as only examples.

Rajoy is accused by the PSOE party and its candidate Rubalcaba of having a ''hidden agenda'': dismantling the welfare system and introducing new privatisations, with tax policies that will increase social disparity and undo the social reforms, including economic assistance to handicapped persons, introduced by the previous socialist governments. ''I am concerned about the fact that the right-wing could win with an absolute majority,'' he told El Pais, hoping to mobilise the left-wing electorate for next Sunday's ballot.

The new government is not expected to be sworn in before December 20. But the markets are not willing to wait. Today Mariano Rajoy asked the markets, faced with an escalating spread that is only curbed by a new ECB intervention, to give the new government ''a minimum margin of more than half an hour'', stressing that ''there will be no power vacuum'' to take possible emergency measures.

Socialist candidate Rubalcaba also asked for ''reason'' and ''calm'', underlining that Spain ''has sufficient margin'' thanks to ''solid solvency and economic basis''. The same reassuring words were spoken by Vice Premier and Economy Minister Elena Salgado, who guaranteed that the country will not need an economic bailout. But so far nobody seems to listen.


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21. November - 27. November 2011.