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Spain: Youth protests overshadow local election results

June 3, 2011

On 22 May, the ruling socialist party (PSOE, Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol) suffered its worst defeat on record, obtaining only 27.8% of the votes. In contrast, the opposing centre-right People's Party (PP, Partido Popular) gained in 11 out of the 13 provinces holding elections. The impact of the election result was overshadowed by the continuing youth protest movement, which started a week before the elections and is thus known as 15-May movement (15-M). The protests started in Madrid but have swelled into a nation-wide movement. Protesters are demanding political transparency and economic reforms, focused on bringing down unemployment. Unemployment has risen to above 20% during the crisis and youth unemployment has reached 45%, raising the potential for civil unrest. While the protests are explicitly directed against both major political parties (PSOE and PP), the May election result suggests that the conservative PP is likely to also emerge as the winner in the national elections slated for March next year. In order to mitigate the negative impact of unpopular austerity measures on the election result, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that he will not run for his party against Mariano Rajoy, the designated PP candidate. In his place, current deputy Prime Minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba will be the front-runner for the socialist party after, current defense minister Carmen Chacon, dropped out of the race.


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