Spain's Socialists win re-election
Spain's Socialists win re-election
By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 26
MADRID, Spain - Spain's Socialist prime minister won
re-election Sunday, as voters dismissed worries about
a slumping economy, immigration and resurgent Basque
militants to hand him a second term.
The results were a clear endorsement of Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's record, which includes
reforms such as legalizing gay marriage and granting
on-demand divorce, once thought unthinkable in this
overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country.
Zapatero also withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and
launched a drive to cede more power to Spain's
"The Spanish people have spoken clearly and decided to
start a new era," Zapatero told euphoric supporters
outside the party's headquarters in Madrid. "I will
govern with a firm but open hand."
With 97 percent of the vote counted, Zapatero's
Socialist party had 43.7 percent, versus 40.1 percent
for the conservative Popular Party, according to the
Opposition conservatives conceded defeat, but took
solace in picking up more parliamentary seats than the
Socialists. Both parties gained seats at the expense
of smaller leftist and regional groups.
While Zapatero's party picked up seats in the lower
house, it fell short of a majority and will have to
form an alliance with smaller regional parties to
For Mariano Rajoy, Zapatero's conservative rival both
in Sunday's vote and in the 2004 election, his second
defeat will likely increase pressure on him to step
down as party chief.
"I thought Rajoy would do better, he speaks with such
conviction I'm surprised he fell behind," said Jose
Eguren, a 29-year-old security guard in the Basque
city of Bilbao.
Sunday's vote came two days after the killing of
Socialist politician Isaias Carrasco at the hands of
the Basque militant group ETA, which jolted Spaniards
and prompted both parties to cancel final campaign
Some in Spain had predicted the killing might prompt a
wave of sympathy and boost at the polls for Zapatero's
party, especially after Carrasco's 20-year-old
daughter Sandra made an emotional appeal Saturday for
people to defy ETA by turning out en masse to vote.
The timing of the attack was reminiscent of the
massacre by Islamic militants who killed 191 people in
bombings against commuter trains in Madrid on March
Three days after that attack, Zapatero won a surprise
victory amid a wave of voter outrage at the ruling
conservatives, who blamed them on ETA even as evidence
of Islamic involvement mounted. The tactics were
widely seen as a bid to deflect perceptions that the
killings were al-Qaida's revenge for the government's
deeply unpopular support of the U.S.-led invasion of
Many conservatives considered Zapatero's 2004 victory
a fluke, and saw Sunday's vote as their chance to
correct it. The prime minister's victory was seen as
finally giving him a legitimacy that critics say he
Sunday's results showed the Socialists on their way to
winning 168 seats in the 350-seat lower house, up from
the current 164 but shy of the 176 seats needed for an
The Popular Party was also shown picking up seats,
raising its total from 148 to 154.
In his next term, Zapatero's main task will be to
reboot the once booming but now slowing economy,
shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. and
a cooling construction sector.
Zapatero also faces the challenge of the resurgence of
ETA, which ended a cease-fire in December 2006 and
made a dramatic show of force with the killing of
The campaign was marked by acrimony, with Rajoy
hammering Zapatero on everything from immigration to
In two televised debates between the men, Rajoy used a
form of the word "liar" more than 30 times to describe
Zapatero. He also blamed Zapatero for not doing enough
to spur the cooling economy.
Rajoy vowed to make immigrants sign a contract
obliging them to respect Spanish customs and learn the
language, a position Zapatero's party called
xenophobic. The candidates also clashed on Zapatero's
willingness to grant more self-rule to Spain's
semiautonomous regions, which conservatives warn will
tear apart the nation.
All of these issues have left Spain polarized. Enrique
Monreal, 35, a publishing company employee, expects
the confrontational climate to continue.
"It will take several years for things to calm down.
Right now it is so tense you are nervous even talking
to your neighbor," Monreal said outside a polling
station in Madrid.
AP correspondents Daniel Woolls and Ciaran Giles in
Madrid, and Harold Heckle in Bilbao contributed to