PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero concedes defeat, rules out early general elections.
MADRID – The governing Socialist party has suffered heavy losses in local and regional elections, the BBC informs. With municipal votes counted, the centre-right Popular Party (PP) had a 10-percentage point lead, winning in virtually all 13 regions up for grabs. Voting took place amid mass protests against high unemployment and the government’s handling of the economy. Young demonstrators holding sit-ins in Madrid and other cities said rallies would continue for another week. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said three years of economic crisis had taken their toll. “It destroyed thousands of jobs. It is a crisis that had profound effects on citizens’ morale. I know that many Spaniards suffer great hardship and fear for their futures,” he said. “Today, without doubt, they expressed their discontent,” he added.
However, he vowed to pursue job-creating reforms until the end of his mandate. At this point, a general election must be held by March of next year. Jubilant PP supporters celebrated outside their party headquarters in Madrid as the final votes were being counted. In municipal elections, the PP won by about two million votes, compared to its victory margin of 150,000 in 2007. The Socialist party also lost bastions such as the town halls in Barcelona and Seville.
Zapatero’s government has been struggling to overcome recession and create jobs. Spain’s overall jobless rate soared to 21 per cent in the first quarter of this year, the highest in the industrialised world. Youth unemployment stands at 45 per cent.
Meanwhile, thousands of young protesters remain camped out in squares across the country.