Monday, May 14, 2007

Municipal Elections 2007....The Battlegrounds

It's time to take a more general look at the impact these elections on the 27th might have, now that we have had the first opinion polls of the campaign. What these polls suggest is that we cannot expect to see a very notable change with respect to the equivalent elections that were held in 2003. Based on this data, the opposition Partido Popular (PP) is not likely to make any significant gains, the only regional government not already controlled by them that they have a reasonable chance of winning is Asturias. Even this does not look very likely based on the poll figures I have seen, and assuming that this is a reasonable reflection of voting intentions.

The governing PSOE does have its eye on some significant prizes. They placed a high profile candidate in the Canary Islands, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who was Justice minister in the government until a few months ago. The race in the Canaries is split between the PP, the regional Coalición Canaria, and the PSOE; so even being the biggest party does not guarantee that you can form the government. The election in Navarra could also be dramatic, as I have mentioned previously. There is every chance that the PP could lose their absolute majority there; and given their current inability to form alliances that means they could lose power too. The Balearic Islands, currently providing the strongest competition to Marbella as municipal corruption capital of the country, could also see the PP lose power to a coalition of opposition parties. In their strongholds of Castilla and Leon, as well as in Madrid, there are no signs of any danger for the PP.

López Aguilar....a heavyweight candidate for Canarias

Losing Navarra and the Balearics would be sufficient to make this a bad election for the PP. It is important to remember that the elections in 2003 took place at a time when the PP was still suffering the consequences of Aznar's participation in the Iraq disaster, although the PP did better at holding its vote than many observers expected and was actually quite satisfied with the results at the time. The participation level in the elections is going to be one of the most important issues, where there has not been much shift in voting intentions then it is the motivation of each party's core vote that becomes the most significant factor. It also has to be taken into account that Galicia, Cataluña, the Basque Country, and Andalucia do not vote this time around for their regional governments, so those regional contests that do occur are not giving a picture for the country as a whole.

The government would want these elections to be a platform for going on to win a national majority in next year's general election, and the poll figures do not at the moment support that ambition. Neither do they support the idea that the PP can emerge as the biggest party in a national election. If the poll data is correct then the PP emerge as the biggest losers simply because a failure to make headway against an incumbent government 3 years into its term suggests that a similar failure could occur in the general election. That prospect might be tempting enough for the government to go for early elections in the autumn, especially if there is no reason to think the outlook will change for the better before March next year. There is plenty at stake here, while the electoral cycle keeps these elections so close to the national ones, then they will always be about much more than local issues.

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