On Monday September 26th Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero formally dissolved Parliament, signing a decree ending the current session and informing King Juan Carlos.
This action has set the stage for a period of intense electioneering, which political pundits and the Spanish public expect to conclude with the election of Mariano Rajoy of the centre-right Partido Popular.
Ramón Pacheco Pardo, a lecturer in Spanish politics at King’s College, London opined, “Either the Popular Party will get a full majority, or they’ll come close to getting one. The Socialists might close the gap somewhat, but not enough to govern by themselves, or even to form a majority. People blame Zapatero – rightly or wrongly – for the economic crisis and things aren’t going to improve by the time of the election.”
One thing is certain; this will be a hard fought campaign and after Election Day on November 20th Spain will have a new Prime Minister. Even if the Socialist Party PSOE stages the greatest turnaround in fortunes since Lazarus, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has made the decision to stand down after two terms in office and will be replaced as the leader of the PSOE by his current deputy, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba.
The ace that the PSOE now holds is that Rubalcaba – a grizzled political campaigner – is well liked by Spaniards, even those who have no particular love for Socialism. Mariano Rajoy, on the other hand, the PP leader who is also a political veteran, is far less popular as a personality and already failed to win over floating voters in the 2004 and 2008 elections.
However, the PSOE has alienated some of its loyal voters by undergoing what many have described as a 180-degree turn in terms of policy halfway through its term in office.
Popular opinion indicates that this election is one that will revolve around the economy. The international publicity garnered by the indignados (indignant people) and their marches and city centre occupations, has made the participants in this election all too aware of the necessity of persuading the electorate that they can act quickly and decisively to boost Spain’s economy and international status.
In order to enthuse young voters – and to cut the cost of electioneering, which can be horrendous – the main parties have vowed to use social networking sites in a bid to broadcast their messages. Therefore, in a slightly comical twist, the battle for the two main contestants has been to attract as many Facebook and Twitter followers as possible. The PSOE can currently boast that Sr. Rubalcaba has 25,000 Twitter followers, while the party has 30,200, and the PP has only 27,000 Twitter followers. However, Sr. Rajoy does have 52,000 Facebook fans and keeps them up to date with his news, posting regular updates of his forthcoming appearances and pictures of his activities.
This could well be a make or break opportunity for the PP leader, who enjoys an unenviable reputation for being stodgy and out of touch. The PP’s New Generations President, Beatríz Jurado, is reported to have been offering Sr. Rajoy some tips on how to connect with young voters.
Only after Sunday 20th November will we know whether she has succeeded.