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Europe

Spanish Socialist Party set for heavy losses in local elections

media Spanish Prime Minister casts his vote in Madrid Reuters/Juan Medina

Spaniards vote on Sunday in local elections with the ruling Socialist Party forecast to suffer devastating losses in key strongholds such as Barcelona and Seville. The vote comes amid nationwide protests against unemployment, the economic crisis and corruption.

 

Thousands of people have massed in city centres across the country in the biggest spontaneous protests since the property bubble burst in 2008 and plunged Spain into a recession.

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Spain’s unemployment rate is currently the highest in the industrialised world at 21.19 per cent. For under 25s the rate is even higher at 44.6 per cent.

Protestors remained camped under plastic covers in central Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square on Sunday. An estimated 60,000 gathered there on Saturday in defiance of a ruling by the electoral commission which said the protests were illegal.

Surveys predict the ruling party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapetero could fall short of an absolute majority in all the 13 regions at stake. This would be a bad omen for the party ahead of general elections scheduled for March 2012 when the conservative Popular Party is expected to return to office after eight years in opposition.

Much of focus on Sunday was also on the northern semi-autonomous Basque Country, where a new political force, Bildu, is taking on the traditional parties after a court battle to prove it is not a mouthpiece for armed separatist group ETA.

More than 34 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday, choosing 8,116 mayors, 68,400 town councillors and 824 members of regional parliaments for 13 of the 17 semi-autonomous regions.

 

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