Spain will go to the polls this weekend to vote in parliamentary elections that take place against a backdrop of economic uncertainty. In preparation for the vote, a briefing has been put together by Paula García Mosquera that explores these upcoming parliamentary elections and the main candidates, parties and issues surrounding it. Click here to download the briefing.
The outgoing socialist president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been working hard to ensure that Spain remains unnoticed within the Eurozone, at a time when countries such as Greece and Italy have garnered so much attention. Following these elections, he will no longer need to worry about remaining invisible as he will be exiting the political scene altogether. The almost inevitable successor to his position will be Mariano Rajoy, a former vice-president from the People’s Party, who is currently calculated at having a 15% lead over his new socialist rival, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.
The economy is unsurprisingly at the top of the election agenda, in particular the extraordinarily high unemployment rate of 22% (more than 5 million people). Added to this, is continual fears about future economic growth and the government’s inability to maintain budget deficit targets, especially in respects to spending by regional governments, to a level that is deemed sustainable by fellow eurozone leaders and, possibly more importantly, the financial markets. However even though the outcome of Sunday’s election is likely, markets have remained cautious about Spain’s future and auctions of 10-year government bonds have seen their yields hit the dreaded 7% that triggered crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
One the main reasons for this is the uncertainty around the economic programme likely to be implemented by Rajoy, who has claimed that any specific pledges at this time are likely to be irrelevant when he finally becomes president. The People’s Party’s campaign has however indicated how Rajoy is likely to approach many of the decisions he will face when in office. Rajoy’s campaign has focused around the issue of austerity and has argued for a smaller state, with lower taxes, less regulation and some commitments to privatisation. A target for bringing the budget deficit down to 3% by 2013 has been established and there has been suggestions that the new president may attempt to rush through emergency measures, with the assistance of Zapatero, immediately upon winning the election. A Rajoy administration would not officially be sworn in by the King until mid-December, but given the immediacy of the current crisis in Europe, the new president may be able to find a way to introduce interim measures until then.
In many ways, Mr Rubalcaba’s role in these elections has been to try and keep Mr Rajoy on his toes and in recent television debates he has accused the People’s Party of having secret plans for major spending cuts and privatisation. In fact, Rubalcaba’s chances of victory have been played down by such an extent by some that it has been suggested that he has already been playing the role of opposition leader against a “president Rajoy”.