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Spain - General Elections

The Socialist Party emerges victorious from the Spanish ballot
José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wins his second term in office as head of government

The Socialist Party emerges victorious from the Spanish ballot
José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wins his second term in office as head of government

10/03/2008 - Results

The Socialist Party (PSOE) led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won the general and senatorial elections that took place on 9th March 2008 in Spain. The ruling party won 43.64% of the vote (+ 0.34 points in comparison with the previous elections on 14th March 2004) clinching 169 seats (+ 5), against 40.12% of the vote (+ 1.82 point) and 153 seats (+ 5 also) for his main rival, the People's Party (PP) led by Mariano Rajoy. The head of government failed however to win the absolute majority which his two predecessors, Felipe Gonzalez (PSOE) and José Maria Aznar (PP) enjoyed during their second term in office and now he will have to negotiate with the "small parties" to form his parliamentary majority.

The two main political parties have therefore strengthened their hold over the Spanish political arena by winning 83.7% of the vote between them. This result was obviously achieved to the detriment of the "small parties". Hence, the United Left (Izquierda unida, IU), that took third position won 3.80% of the vote and three seats (-5). It came ahead of Convergenica i Union de Catalunya (CiU), a Catalan electoral alliance led by Artur Mas, which won 3.05% of the vote and 11 seats (- 1), Esquerra republicana de Catalunya (ERC), a leftwing Catalan party led by Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, 1.2% of the vote and 6 seats (- 1), the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), a nationalist party led by José Manuel Beiras, 0.82% of the vote and two seats (- 3) and finally the Canarian Coalition (CC), a regionalist party which won 0.64% of the vote and two seats (=).
United Left appears to be main loser in these general elections. Its leader Gaspar Llamazares acknowledged his party's poor result and said that he took personal responsibility for this. He also deplored the "two-party tsunami that swept us away along with the other political parties", qualifying this phenomena as "dangerous for the representation of ideas and unfair since the provincially based electoral system is particularly damaging to the United Left."
Turn out, one of the major stakes at issue in these parliamentary elections, was high reaching 75.32%, an almost equal result to that recorded during the previous general and senatorial election on 14th March 2004.

"The election witnessed a high turn out which is a source of joy for all. The Spanish gave the Socialist Workers' Party a clear victory. They have expressed themselves clearly and have decided to open the way to a new, peaceful era that excludes confrontation and which is dedicated to correcting the errors made over the last four years and which encourages us to continue along the road of success," declared Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero when the results were announced. "I shall govern with a firm, yet open hand," he stressed saying that he wanted to "be the leader of a united, diversified, free and tolerant Spain – with a thought for everyone especially those who do not have everything."
"We can say clearly that the Socialist Workers' Party won the general and senatorial elections. It is a great victory, one for all of the citizens, which supposes the rejection of the political strategy of unrest and disloyalty. The main winner has been democracy," declared José Blanco, the PSOE's spokesman on the announcement of the results, alluding to the assassination on 7th March, two days before the election, of 43 year-old Isiais Carrasco, former socialist councillor of Mondragon, a town in Basque country. The attack was attributed to the Basque terrorist group ETA. This murder was condemned by all political sides who concluded their electoral campaigns early because of this. Basque Nationalist Action, a party that governs the town of Mondragon at present refused to condemn the murder and Batasuna (Basque Unity, a nationalist coalition of Marxist ideology), believed to be the political side of ETA called on its supporters to boycott the general and senatorial elections.
"Those who want to show solidarity with my father and our pain should turn out to vote en masse on Sunday to show the murderers that we are going to win," said Isaias Carrasco's daughter, Sandra, just before her father's funeral that took place the day before the election. The Prime Minister also called on the Spanish to turn out in force in order to send a message to ETA. "I hope it will be day with high turn out, a democratic day for an exemplary country. Democracy is strengthened if all citizens go to vote," stressed José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as he went to ballot.

"I want to congratulate the Socialist Party if the figures are confirmed," declared the campaign director of the main opposition party, Pio Garcia Escudero, after the announcement of the results. "But it is a good result for the People's Party with a significant increase in its votes and seats in comparison with 2004. We are extremely satisfied with this," he added. Mariano Rajoy, also highlighted the progress made by his party. "Ours is the party which has made the most progress in Spain in terms of votes and seats," he declared after the election and after calling José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to wish him "good luck for the good of Spain".
Mariano Rajoy therefore witnessed his second defeat in the general and senatorial elections after 14th March 2004. It may be difficult for the PP to avoid examining this defeat over the next few months, likewise the type of opposition it plans to adopt during this term in office and finally the future of its present leader.

47 year-old José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is a trained lawyer. He says that his family history explains his political commitment; this is notably due to his grandfather, a Republican who was executed by Franco's supporters during the Spanish Civil War. "My father read my grandfather's will to my brother and I, which was written just a few hours before he was killed in 1936. 'I die innocent and I forgive'. That is when my biography begins," he usually says.
In 1986, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, then 26 years old became the youngest Spanish MP in history. He was regularly re-elected MP until 2000. On 23rd July that year he became Secretary General of the Socialist Party, taking over from Joaquin Almunia. Just as the party was forecast beaten in the polls before the general and senatorial elections of 14th March 2004 it won the parliamentary election that was marred by the terrorist attacks undertaken by Al Qaeda on 11th March 2004 in Atocha Station – Madrid that led to the deaths of 191 people and the injury of hundreds of others.

"In the beginning he was not a strong leader. His ability to lead was questioned within his party," says Socialist MP Antonio Hernando, adding "his nickname, "Bambi" at the time says much about what his critics thought of him. Then we started to compare him to the "Lion King". Of course this is still a cartoon character but José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ended up by winning the Socialist Party over to his cause." "His style of leadership comprises not giving order but reaching consensus. But behind the smile there is a great deal of determination," analyses Juan Luis Paniagua, professor of political science at the University Complutense in Madrid.
Often compared with his former British counterpart Tony Blair, whose youth and pragmatism he shares, Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is a representative within the Socialist Party of the trend, Nueva Via (New Way).

The Socialist Party's success is truly that of the Prime Minister since the electoral campaign was focussed on his personality. Also this victory, contrary to the previous one cannot be challenged or made illegitimate by the opposition. During his second term in office José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will have to continue the modernisation of Spain as he did over the first four years at the Moncloa (seat of the Spanish Head of Government). Two major issues now lie before him: the management of the economic slowdown the country has been experiencing and finally the quest for the peaceful co-habitation of 45 million Spanish, notably by finding a solution to the issue of Basque terrorism in ETA.

Results of the general and senatorial election in Spain 9th March 2008



Turn out: 75.32%

Congress of Deputies
Source: Spanish Home Office
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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