Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Abuse Of Terror Pays Low Dividends

The attempts by the Partido Popular (PP) to capitalise politically on the collapse of the Basque peace process following the bomb attack at Madrid airport do not appear to have brought them much success. The latest opinion poll published at the end of last week, and which was based on polling data taken shortly after the ETA bombing, showed them closing the gap on the governing PSOE by just 0.2% since the previous poll by the same organisation in October. This is a change which has no real statistical significance, and results from a lower figure for the PSOE rather than any increase in support for the PP. Meanwhile, on the ratings given to individual politicians, the PP leader Mariano Rajoy emerges from the poll with a very low personal rating, a consistent feature of many opinion polls.

Rajoy, not such a popular man

The apparent stalemate in the opinion polls, and the inability of the PP to get ahead against a minority government three years into its term of office, is causing a certain amount of frustration in some right wing circles. The conservative newspaper ABC has begun to voice this frustration by calling for renovation in the party leadership, a message almost certainly aimed at the discredited (for his role in handling the Madrid train bombings) Angel Acebes, and Eduardo Zaplana; who achieves the rare and difficult feat of making Richard Nixon seem like a straightforward and honest man by comparison. The problem is that these are José Maria Aznar’s men, and moving them out is difficult while the party more or less holds its own. Because the PP has no real internal democracy only clear signs that they are going to head to another electoral defeat might force the party heavyweights to move against Rajoy. In the meantime they continue to try and use the imaginary surrender of Zapatero’s government to ETA as their main opposition platform, coupled of course with the ever present attempts to spread the conspiracy theories about the Madrid bombings. The encouraging sign of the latest poll is that this strategy does not appear to be working for them; the signs are that the electorate does not blame the government for ETA’s return to violence.

Meanwhile, last Saturday's anti-government demonstration called by the terrorist victims association (AVT) showed that the great "civic rebellion" they like to boast about simply isn't happening. Even the regional government of Madrid, controlled by the PP, put the attendance at just over 100,000 when normally their figures for protests against the government are never below one million.

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