Monday, May 28, 2007

Municipal Elections 2007....Everyone's A Winner!

Suppose they held an election and nobody lost! It's normal in elections for every party involved to try and claim some kind of triumph, by focusing on whatever aspect of the results looks best for them. However, after yesterday's municipal elections in Spain it's hard to find a party that isn't claiming victory. If you're from the PP you focus on the total number of votes cast and the victories in Madrid and Valencia. The PSOE will concentrate on the significant rise in support in the Canary Islands, an overall increase in the number of councillors, and the possibility that they can form alliances to govern in Navarra or even the Balearic Islands. Meanwhile, Izquierda Unida will point to increased votes in Madrid to show that they have arrested a trend of declining shares of the vote.

The PP won the day on the sum total of votes, by over 150,000, but this seems to be mostly due to them increasing their hold on Valencia and Madrid. Elsewhere they had more mixed fortunes, and didn't show any increase in their vote. Indeed they have lost their overall majority in Navarra and the Balearic Islands. For the PSOE a very significant increase in their vote in the Canary Islands and the possibility of sharing power in Navarra has been offset by the disappointment of Madrid. Not that they really expected to win Madrid, they just didn't want to lose it so badly. Overall, the voting intentions hardly changed during the campaign, the initial opinion polls reflect the outcome quite well. Not only that, in many places the result has hardly changed since the previous round in 2003. It is hard to think of a single result that could accurately be described as a shock.

Picking a winner....

Abstention was an issue in some areas, in Cataluña the vote was significantly lower than the national average. In Madrid the PP is crowing about the record percentage of the vote at municipal and regional level, but the reality is that this is not due to a significant increase in their support. If you look at the voting figures in the city the PP has increased their vote in some areas, but in others it went down or stayed the same. The big difference is that a significant section of the PSOE vote stayed at home, and a smaller part of it switched (back?) to Izquierda Unida, who are actually the party recording the biggest proportional increase in votes in the city. The problem is that going from 7 to 8 per cent doesn't look so impressive on paper. This presents a problem for the PSOE in Madrid, whether it was due to the fiasco of the candidate selection, or just to an uninspiring campaign is hard to say. High abstention tends to affect the left more than the right in Spain, the PP support is more loyal when it comes to voting in local elections. Perhaps because they are always so angry?

Navarra is going to be interesting, it was the focus of a ridiculous and hysterical campaign by the PP based around the idea that the government had made a secret deal with ETA on the future of the region. It seems that the area where this campaign has had the least effect was Navarra itself, as the PP associated UPN lost its absolute majority; and an alliance of Basque nationalist parties gathered a significant increase in support. Now, however, the only alternative government that excludes the PP is an alliance between the nationalists and the PSOE. Should this happen we can expect an equally hysterical campaign from the right wing press as they try to convert the government of Navarra into a new version of the Catalan tripartit to try and scare the rest of the country into voting for the PP.

The PSOE needs to do some serious thinking about Madrid, the shift to the PP in an election where there has not been a national shift in that direction should be worrying. The victory of Aguirre in the regional election is of greater concern than what happened in Madrid city, as the PSOE would have expected to do better. Madrid has been used in the past as a political weathervane for the following general elections; a PSOE victory in the city preceded the national victory of Felipe Gonzalez, and a victory for the PP at regional level came just before Aznar won his first term. However, it is starting to look like a bit of a special case at the moment, although on sheer quantity of votes alone it always remains important.

What all this means for the general elections next year is an open question, the most likely outcome is something not so far away from what we have at the moment. The PP are not looking like nationwide winners, despite the solidity of their core vote. Meanwhile, it doesn't look as if the government is getting the support it needs to go for an absolute majority. On the basis of yesterday's results the most likely possibility would seem to be a repeat of what we have at the ccould be worse. The PP will of course hope for an intervention from ETA at some point that permits them to carry on with the farce of making terrorism the key issue in what will now be an almost permanent election campaign.

On a more local note, I checked this morning the results for Manzanares la Verguenza - there seems to have been some movement betwen parties but I can't yet tell if those pursuing the destruction of La Pedriza will be returning to power or not. The lords of the ladrillo have at least been set back slightly in the Toledo municipality of Seseña. An ugly campaign by a constructor who wants to build thousands of homes in an area with no water has failed to dislodge the Izquierda Unida mayor who opposed the development. It may not seem like much when you see how they still dominate in Madrid and the Mediterranean, but it is in reality a small victory worth celebrating.

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