Monday, June 08, 2009

European Elections 2009....The PP Smells Blood

Yesterday's election in Spain had a clear winner, and that was the Partido Popular. With a margin of over 600,000 votes there is little doubt about the victor. In percentage terms, the PP had an advantage of around 3.7% over the PSOE, which is at the higher end of what the opinion polls had predicted. This was the PP's first electoral victory at national level since the year 2000, and the party leadership will be doing all they can to try and present it as the turning point in the electoral cycle; the beginning of the end of the Zapatero era. A general election producing the same results would not give the PP a parliamentary majority, it would simply reverse the current positions of the PP and the PSOE leaving the former to seek an alliance with one of the conservative nationalist parties.

Despite the claim by PP leader Mariano Rajoy that this was their best ever result in European elections the reality is a bit different. Jose Maria Aznar secured more votes and a much bigger advantage over the PSOE in 1994, a result that was seen as the prelude to the PP gaining power in the following national elections. A closer look at yesterday's results suggests that the PP's advantage relies much more on the declining vote for the PSOE than on any significant increase in support for the PP. Rajoy's internal opponents had suggested that he needed to win by a 10% margin, although obviously if they thought he would get near that then the target would have been placed even higher. For the moment Rajoy's quiet strategy of letting the economic crisis erode support for the government is producing results, but perhaps not as much as many in the PP had hoped for.

Both the major parties based their campaigns around convincing their own supporters to turn out and vote, there wasn't really even a token effort to attract other voters. The result demonstrates what many already suspected, that the PP is finding it easier to mobilise their electorate, whilst the PSOE has lost a significant section of its support due to the crisis. Regardless of what anyone else might think, this was a big win for Mariano Rajoy. Unless something fairly dramatic happens to affect the PP's support it looks as if Rajoy has achieved his aim of consolidating his position within the party and remaining as leader. Even Esperanza Aguirre was there on the balcony for the victory celebration last night, although the ranks of party supporters on the street below looked a bit thin.

One depressing aspect of the vote is that the PP are trying to use their strong support in Madrid and Valencia to pretend that the voters have absolved them of any involvement in corruption. This is a Berlusconian strategy, that says you can do what you want as long as the electorate is prepared to vote for you. We just have to hope that the courts don't decide to go along with it. It is further evidence of what we have already seen in previous elections, corruption seems to have no impact on the willingness of PP supporters to vote for their party. Meanwhile, Zapatero needs to combat the idea that the tide has turned against him, and to try and stabilise his parliamentary support so that the talk of a motion of censure being presented doesn't become anything more than a wish on the part of the PP. The key to this will be Cataluña, which yesterday had a significantly higher abstention rate than most of the rest of Spain, and recorded a dramatic drop in PSOE support.

Of the other parties, Izquierda Unida will be pleased to have kept two members of the European Parliament but the fact that they have made no impact at all in terms of attracting disillusioned PSOE supporters means that their result is not being celebrated. The new party UpyD failed in their objective of overtaking IU as the fourth party, although they did get a single representative elected. Madrid still provides one third of their total support in the country. The regional nationalists maintained their representation and the PNV in the Basque Country will be pleased to have maintained their position as the largest party in the region. The almost illegalised Iniciativa Internacionalista failed to get anyone elected, but they did take over 100,000 votes in the Basque Country; just 600 short of the PP's total there.


Tom said...

II also got 163 votes in Cerdanyola del Vallès, short of UPyD but above Izquierda Anticapitalista, Ciudadanos and Extremadura Unida. I didn't see a Progreso y Orden ballot paper, unfortunately.

Rab said...

The Catalan and Basque media are reporting something that looks very, very suspicious.

I am still reading the articles but the distribution of errors is non-random, and that to me suggests electoral fraud.


Vilaweb and Avui have more details, you can use the online translator in my blog.
This could be a massive story -but the mainstream Spanish media (even Publico) seem to be hiding it.