Spain's Zapatero: protesters must be heard

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's prime minister acknowledged Thursday that the government "must listen" to the concerns of young people who have staged protests across the country against the economic crisis and soaring unemployment.

"We must listen. We must be sensitive because there are reasons for expressing this discontent and criticism," said Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"But after that we need to strengthen, improve like all countries which have achieved higher levels of welfare and which are democratic, with representative democracy and political parties," he told the private television channel Telecino.

"Do the parties need to improve? Yes, of course."

Young people have camped in main squares across Spain since May 15 in the largest spontaneous protests since the country plunged into recession after the collapse of a property bubble in 2008.

Calling for "Real Democracy Now," the protesters lament Spain's 21-percent jobless rate, economic crisis, politicians in general, and corruption.

Zapatero's ruling Socialists Thursday faced the prospect of a rout in weekend local elections.

Even before the protests, polls tipped devastating losses for the Socialists as voters take revenge for the destruction of millions of jobs and painful spending cuts, including to state salaries.

© 2011 AFP

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