Spanish Popular party leader relieved by win
By Victor Mallet in Madrid
Published: June 7 2009 13:53
Last updated: June 7 2009 23:22
Spains conservative opposition Popular party won a clear if unspectacular victory over the governing Socialists in Sundays European parliamentary elections, according to provisional official results.
The results, in line with the predictions of recent opinion polls, came as a relief to Mariano Rajoy, the PP leader who has been under fire from his own supporters for failing to exploit to better political effect a grave economic crisis that has left more than 4m Spaniards unemployed.
According to the early results, based on a count of nearly 90 per cent of ballots, the PP won 42.19 per cent of the Spanish vote, worth 23 seats, against 38.55 per cent and 21 seats for the Socialists.
Its the best result of our history in any European elections, Mr Rajoy told a cheering crowd at the PPs Madrid headquarters on Sunday night, promising a future victory in Spanish national elections due by 2012 and calling for a change of the governments economic policies to deal with the crisis.
Both the main Spanish national parties are pro-European, and the campaign in Spain was fought almost entirely on domestic issues rather than those that concern the European Union as a whole.
They dont compete really on pro or anti-Europe, explained Jos Ignacio Torreblanca, who heads the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Both parties support the Lisbon treaty. They couldnt have a debate on this because they would just say, I agree with you.
Mara Isabel, an unemployed professional gardener working as a weekend street-cleaner in northern Madrid, explained on Sunday why at least some previously faithful leftist voters such as herself had abandoned the Socialist party led by Jos Luis Rodrguez Zapatero, the prime minister, and switched to the PP.
I think the Socialists have helped create the crisis, she said.
I know its all over Europe, but its worse in Spain, what with immigration and so on. They are not meeting my expectations as a Spaniard . . . We cant let everyone in if theres no work.
After a lacklustre campaign, both big parties tried at the last minute to mobilise voters by evoking the potential horrors of what would happen if the other side won.
Juan Fernando Lpez Aguilar, head of the Socialist list, urged Spaniards to vote for his party to avoid a nightmare Europe of fanatical rightwingers.
Jaime Mayor Oreja of the PP urged supporters to vote to reduce the chances of terrorists.
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