Spain's opposition conservatives win EU vote

8th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Popular party took 23 seats, compared to the ruling Socialists’ 21 seats.

Madrid – Spain's opposition conservatives beat the ruling Socialists in European elections Sunday, seen as a test for the government amid the worst recession in 15 years and soaring unemployment.

With 99 percent of votes counted, the opposition Popular Party had garnered 42.25 percent and 23 of the 50 seats up for grabs, compared to 38.50 percent and 21 seats for the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

In the last European parliamentary elections, in 2004, the Socialist Party won 25 of the 54 seats then at stake, against 24 for the PP.

The election was marked by another low turnout of just 45.81 percent, up just slightly from the all-time low of 45.14 percent five years ago.

"We have won the elections," PP leader Mariano Rajoy told cheering supporters. "This is our best result in a European election."

He said the people "expressed their desire for change," in particular in the government's response to the economic crisis.

The Socialist Party described the result as "reasonably positive".

Campaign issues had focused on domestic rather than European matters, with the PP playing on concerns over the economic crisis and soaring unemployment.

The opposition also accused Zapatero, who was comfortably re-elected to a second four-year term in March 2008, of using military, rather than private, planes to travel to campaign rallies.

The PP has been hit by allegations of corruption involving regional leaders, but it had been encouraged by an election victory in the north-western region of Galicia in March.

Spain entered its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008 and country's unemployment rate soared to 17.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009, more than double the average of 8.3 percent for the entire 27-nation European Union.

The Coalition for Europe, composed of nationalist parties from various regions of Spain, had picked up 5.09 percent of the vote and two seats and the left-wing IU-ICV coalition 3.73 percent and two seats.

Another alliance of nationalist parties, Europe for the People – Greens, and the anti-nationalist UPyD each bagged one seat.

A total of 35.5 million people were eligible to vote. These included 284,000 citizens of other EU member states, mainly Romanians (76,000) and Britons (49,000).

Spain was one of 19 of the 27 EU nations to vote Sunday on the fourth and final day of polling to elect 736 deputies for a five-year term at the European parliament, which is the only directly-elected EU institution.

The parliament, which has struggled to strengthen its standing on the continent, is expected to stay under centre-right control.

AFP / Expatica

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