Spanish voters voice anger, apprehension
Spaniards vented anger with the ruling Socialists over an economic crisis and towering jobless rate as they voted Sunday in rain-sodden general elections.
But some were also wary of conservative leader Mariano Rajoy, expected to win by a landslide on a promise of breaking with the past and fixing the economy with a severe dose of austerity.
Polls released ahead of the election showed the 56-year-old Rajoy and his Popular Party heading to a crushing win and a likely absolute majority in parliament.
Octavio Arginano, a retired 67-year-old factory worker, said he voted for the right for the first time in his life because of the crisis, with nearly five million out of work and a jobless rate of 21.5 percent.
"My son has been unemployed for over a year, my daughter earns just 600 euros ($800) a month looking after young children," he said after voting at a school under rainy skies in the Madrid neighbourhood of Lavapies.
"There has to be a change, although I am not sure anyone knows what to do to get us out of this situation."
Others were frustrated with all politicians.
"I am going to cast a blank ballot for the first time," said 46-year-old schoolteacher Fernando Javier Alvarez, sheltering under an umbrella at a voting station in a school in southern Madrid.
"The (Socialist Party) PSOE made five million people unemployed and lied to us about the economic crisis," Alvarez said.
"All the parties of the left and right reflect the same ideals."
Although he voted for the Popular Party in the last election in 2008, Alvarez said he had lost faith this time: "Mariano can't solve Spain's big problems either."
The tough spending cuts begun by the Socialists are expected to deepen if a conservative government takes over.
Analysts say Sunday's winner must quickly impose reforms and cut costs to reassure world markets about Spain's determination to repay its debts.
Rajoy has vowed to make cuts "everywhere", except for pensions, so as to meet Spain's target of cutting the public deficit.
Juan Cuadrado, a 28-year-old university student leaving a Madrid polling station in a black raincoat, said he stayed faithful to the Socialists despite the bleak economic situation after their seven years in power.
"I voted for the Socialists in 2008 and have no problem saying I voted for them again this time," he said.
"They made mistakes, but I feel they made an effort to maintain social protection like unemployment insurance. I don't believe the Popular Party is going to do that."
Maria del Carmen Romero, 65, said she has "never had any doubt" about voting Socialist, even though her husband's pension has been frozen and her daughter, a schoolteacher, had her salary cut by five percent under crisis measures.
"The government has had no option but to handle the crisis this way. It is a worldwide crisis. That is what the Spanish do not understand," she said.
"The important thing is that the PP should not get an absolute majority. That is never good, because then they can do whatever they want."
© 2011 AFP